Lidl surprised by strength of union response as Unite wins Living Wage victory

lidlfairpayIt was over before the first demonstration: Lidl folded and gave into a union-backed campaign to pay the Living Wage across the British Isles.

On Monday, we reported that the budget supermarket chain had sacked a worker for making a Facebook comment about the company’s pay policy: the company recently gained a lot of favourable coverage for becoming the first supermarket to pay the Living Wage of £8.20 per hour – but while this pay policy applied to workers in England, Wales and Scotland, it didn’t cover workers in Northern Ireland or the Republic Ireland.

The Lidl worker was sacked for complaining about this discrepancy on Facebook.

Lidl claimed that the business was “organised differently” in Northern Ireland.

The union Unite responded quickly, with a series of protests outside Lidl stores planned for today, and a call for a potential boycott.

The campaign spread quickly on social media, with workers as far away as Turkey announcing they would protest in solidarity.

 

Lidl backed down and today announced they would pay the Living Wage to all employees – and that this agreement would cover the Republic of Ireland too. This is a significant union victory, as Lidl is not unionised in the Republic.

Unite have said that the victory “demonstrates power of workers getting organised with Unite”, and that other retailers are now “on notice” to match Lidl’s Living Wage policy.

Unite Regional Officer, Susan Fitzgerald, said:

“This is a very significant victory for Lidl workers, our members and Unite, who led the campaign to demand equal pay for workers in Northern Ireland.

 “It is clear that Lidl had no intention of paying Northern Ireland workers the same as those in England, Scotland and Wales. This victory has been won by workers joining Unite and getting organised as well as the strength of the wider solidarity expressed behind our #LidlFairPay campaign. 

“We believe Lidl must now reconsider their decision to dismiss a worker whose only crime was to question the fairness of Lidl pay policy on Facebook. 

“This announcement means other retail chains are now ‘on notice’ that they need to pay the Living Wage – there can be no justification for poverty-pay.

 “We are particularly pleased that Lidl’s adoption of the Living Wage will extend to their workforce in the Republic of Ireland. This is an all-island victory for both Lidl staff and Unite.

 “Our union will now call off the protests we were organising for later today outside Lidl supermarkets in Belfast and Derry. We will also withdraw from initiating a legal challenge over pay discrimination. 

 “Unite will continue to build our membership base in Lidl with a focus on addressing the minimum hours and precarious nature of contracts held by many workers. It is vital that all workers have the security and guaranteed hours to mean this Living Wage announcement translates into Living Pay”, Ms Fitzgerald concluded.

Lidl is German owned, and has more than 10,000 stores across Europe. Last week, British supermarket chain Morrison’s followed Lidl’s lead to pay its entire staff the Living Wage of £8.20 an hour.


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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