18 January 2007 Edition
Nuacht na nOibrithe BY STEPHANIE LORD
Taxpayer to foot €4.3m Irish Ferries redundancies bill
This week it emerged that the taxpayer is to pay €4.3m towards the cost of making over 500 Irish seafarers redundant last year so that they could be replaced with low-paid, non-unionised workers from Eastern Europe. This comes as a result of a statutory redundancy rebate scheme which allows workers to reclaim a portion of their redundancy payments to workers. Irish Ferries have stated that the redundancy package cost the group €29.1m. The decision to pay the company’s claim was delayed for nearly a year as it was referred to the Attorney General’s office to decide whether the redundancies were genuine. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment endorsed the decision to pay the company’s claim. SIPTU President, Jack O’Connor said that he was “disgusted but not surprised” by the decision. Mr O’Connor said when push comes to shove in a dispute between employers and workers he would never be in any doubt “which side the present Minister Micheál Martin would come down on”.
Lock out of workers at Fáilte Ireland
Following a row over relocation of a marketing department, management of Fáilte Ireland – the national tourism authority – has locked workers and trade union members out of their workplace at Pembroke Row in Dublin. This has resulted in the picketing of Fáilte’s offices on Baggot Street and Pembroke Row by staff who are mostly represented by SIPTU. The union’s branch organiser Owen Reidy described the dispute as “regrettable” and told of how it could have been avoided if “the Authority’s management had engaged meaningfully with SIPTU on the proposed relocation of the marketing division”. He also went on to illustrate how industrial relations at Fáilte were at “an all-time low”. Sinn Féin spokesperson on Worker’s Rights Deputy Arthur Morgan said: “It is an absolute disgrace that in this day and age we are still facing situations where workers and trade union members are being locked out of their workplace. Workers are now picketing Fáilte’s premises as a result of this aggressive action by management. Sinn Féin fully supports the workers in their endeavours and would urge people to show their support to workers on the picket lines.”
Vehicle licensing jobs uncertain
More than 260 staff at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Office in Coleraine, County Derry face an uncertain future after it was announced that the British Government plan to transfer the work conducted by the office to Swansea in Wales. The Department of the Environment have said that 103 of the staff may be transferred or could be redeployed to other areas of the civil service however it is unclear what will happen to the positions of the remaining 68 temporary employees. Derek Smyth, a representative of trade union Nipsa said that the staff are “shocked and upset” at the proposed plans.
HSA commit to clean up mushroom industry
This week the 26 County Health and Safety Authority committed to carrying out at least 100 inspections of mushroom farms during 2007. The mushroom industry is renowned for exploitation of workers – long working hours, poor conditions, and pitiful wages are just a few of its trademarks. Trade Unions have often complained of the practice of forcing employees to work in mushroom tunnels which have been contaminated by insecticide and fungicide fumes following spraying without observing the regulations for providing quarantine periods after each chemical spray.
In August 2005 a 14-year-old Lithuanian boy, Justinas Gleizys died from hydrogen sulphide poisoning while working on an Irish mushroom farm. It is hoped that the HSA’s plan will make mushroom farm employers adhere to safety precautions and show regard for the well-being of their workers.