Investing in our colleagues – how we work collaboratively with unions

Emma Taylor
Emma Taylor
Chief People Officer

On 20 July 2022, I was delighted to attend a ceremony with USDAW to formally sign our new partnership agreement1, which ensures we continue to work together to secure the best possible level of support and voice for our store colleagues.

Our colleagues really are at the heart of our business; they work incredibly hard to overcome any challenges we face, while maintaining a great level of service and availability for our customers. That’s why we believe it’s so important to listen to how they are feeling, and take the time to understand what really matters to them. Together with USDAW, we have shared a commitment to colleagues since the start of our relationship in the 1950s, and the partnership agreement lays out the principles and processes for how we work together, engage, listen and respond to colleagues, improve terms and conditions, and solve problems together. It was first signed in 1998, and represents not only the largest private sector union recognition agreement in the UK, but also one of the largest in Europe. The success of our partnerships with unions like USDAW is built upon honesty and respect – we are one of the few major retailers to have a full collective bargaining agreement in place with their respective union, with USDAW being the sole recognised union for colleagues working in our UK stores.

In recent months, we’ve been working closely with USDAW on a full review of the agreement – last undertaken in 2015 – to ensure it is simpler, more accessible, and encourage even more colleagues to engage with the process and better understand how we collaborate with unions on the things that matter to them. The renewed agreement includes a refresh of our forum process, with a clear focus on our business and people priorities, and the inclusion of our colleague networks, diversity & inclusion, and health & wellbeing discussed at every level. We’ve strengthened the existing arrangement we have for USDAW to meet with all our new starters during their induction, and give them the opportunity to become members; we provide the ability for USDAW representatives to stand down with full pay from their normal jobs in order to focus on new member recruitment and union training during set times in the year. We’ve also formalised our approach to consulting on UK policy, with a company-wide consultation and discussion group.

How we invest in colleagues, through the combination of hours, pay and benefits, is something we take very seriously. Collaborative conversations between Tesco, USDAW and colleague representatives allow us to directly and explicitly hear their views – through numerous local and national forums, consulting on changes within our business and when negotiating improvements to pay and reward. Together, we reach an agreement that works best for them. Our new partnership agreement is available for colleagues to access at any time, via our internal platforms. 

This update follows an announcement in April 2022, where after successful negotiations with USDAW and colleague representatives, we announced a significant investment in colleague pay, benefits and skills. This investment takes into account the changes in how customers now shop with us, but also what our colleagues tell us is important to them – more opportunities to learn, accessing new skills, and being able to work flexibly around their commitments at home. We also aligned to USDAW’s New Deal for Workers campaign; committing to always offer any vacant hours to colleagues working fewer than 16 hours a week, before recruiting externally. When we do recruit externally, all new contracts will be based on a minimum of 16 hours per week2, unless a candidate would prefer to work fewer hours.

Last year, we also supported USDAW in their campaign for greater protection in law for all retail workers, after record levels of violence and abuse were recorded during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re pleased that with help and support from colleagues, new legislation under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act has now passed, introducing tougher penalties for those who assault those working in stores.

Our commitment to colleagues has never been stronger. We will continue to build strong relationships with the unions and organisations we work with, to make the best investments in our colleagues’ future and ensure Tesco remains a great place to work for all.

1 Our partnership agreement is in place and applicable to colleagues working in our UK stores, where USDAW is the sole recognised union. While this agreement is not applicable to our UK distribution, Customer Engagement Centre or salaried colleagues we work closely with several unions – including USDAW – to ensure we offer the best possible support for these colleagues.

2 There are a limited number of exceptions in our smallest Express stores.


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