This is a very interesting Comment is Free piece from an American trade union leader. It would seem that as Tesco expands into America, it has adopted a very American view of trade unions. Collective bargaining is, if anything, more important in the US than it is here. True to their nature, US regulation is ‘soft-touch’ when it comes to employment. Practices vary widely between states, but very few fundamental rights exist. In most states employment is ‘at will’ which means that it can be terminated without notice or fair reason by either party, regardless of length of service. Similarly, I recall once reading an advertisement for a post as a junior lawyer in the federal government. It boasted of government employee benefits, such as a “generous” three weeks’ paid vacation each year. Europe and the US look at each other with mutual amazement at the difference in approach.
Many rights that exist do so only contractually, and as a result of collective bargaining. The drive to reduce union influence is therefore arguably still stronger than it is here – cynics here might say the unions here have largely already won!
The fact that Tesco have immediately joined the union-bashing party might be seen as indicative of big business only doing what it needs to. Tesco, and the big supermarkets in general,Â are good employers in the UK, but although any company will announce its good practices as somehow evidencing business altruism, they will only ever do what they need to so to succeed in their current environment.