Whatever happens, it’s going to be a bun fight and if celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has his way, it will all be caught on camera. What is usually a very mundane affair looks likely to turn into a circus.
Tesco must feel that it can’t do anything right at the moment. Fearnley-Whittingstall is taking the grocer to task over its stocking of battery chickens. And while chicken welfare is a serious issue for supermarkets, Tesco also has to think about its ever more cash-strapped customers.
Trade union Unite will also be having a pop, protesting about what it says are “Dickensian working conditions” at Brown Brothers, a Scottish meat supplier. Staff at the company have complained that they have to clock off when they go to the lavatory – hence the presentation of the golden loo.
And US union UFCW, backed by the might of the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, wants Tesco to engage with the union in the US. It has been campaigning to meet with Tesco ever since it launched its Fresh & Easy chain in the country. Yet Tesco has said that union membership is a matter of individual choice and “if our people want to join a union, then they can and will. All the signs so far are that there is little interest in doing so”.
In the US, Tesco is to hire a further 750 staff over the next three months as it kick-starts its expansion again. And for each position hired, the retailer has received more than 13 applications. Employees are local too – more than 50 per cent live within four miles of their store.
The package isn’t bad either: entry-level positions at Fresh & Easy start at US$10 an hour in California, with similarly competitive salaries in other states. All employees can work at least 20 hours a week, entitling them to affordable healthcare. In uncertain economic times, surely having a company on your shores that is hiring can only be a good thing?
Outside of the AGM extravaganza, Tesco has also been lambasted for not pulling its trade out of troubled Zimbabwe. Yet trade is crucial to providing support to small farmers and Tesco insisted that “by trading with Zimbabwe ,we are supporting hundreds of small farmers and not the Mugabe government”.
In a week when value retailer Primark was damned for being exposed as having children working on its garments by BBC’s Panorama and yet damned again for halting its relationship with those factories involved, it seems that sometimes retailers can do no right.
Leahy is not likely to rise to anything that is thrown at him today, yet he and many others may well feel like doing so.