16 July 2009 Edition

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Electricians suspend strike

WAITING FOR REPONSE: General Secretary Designate of TEEU, Eamon Devoy

WAITING FOR REPONSE: General Secretary Designate of TEEU, Eamon Devoy

BY STEPHANIE LORD

THE executive of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) has unanimously accepted a Labour Court recommendation aimed at resolving the union’s ongoing dispute with employers. The dispute centres on pay increases that the electricians have been owed from state-wide pay agreements.
TEEU General Secretary Designate Eamon Devoy said the union had decided to suspend the week-long strike and await the response of the employer representative bodies. Devoy added:
“However, we reserve the right to reactivate our industrial action and pursue our all-out picket application to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions vigorously, if required.”

NEW ICTU PRESIDENT
Speaking last week as the new President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Jack O’Connor said in reference to the dispute that he is acutely aware of “the level of disillusionment among trade union members and working people generally at our response to the assault on their standard of living and quality of life as it has unfolded to date”.
In his inaugural address he stated:
“I am determined to ensure that, in so far as I can, this movement will not allow any group of workers to be isolated or to have their agreements torn up or have Labour Court recommendations disregarded and have avenues of resolution deliberately obstructed.
“This is why I considered it critically important to declare our clear and unequivocal support for the electrician members of the TEEU after their talks at the LRC broke down last Saturday.
“In saying all of this, I am equally determined to ensure that the battle is conducted in an intelligent way that does not expose union members, or their families, or indeed the ordinary citizens of this island, to unnecessary hardship or potential danger through some blind adventurism.
“And all the while we must be ready and willing to conclude terms for a realistic agreement that respects the interests of working people and our entitlement to dignity at work.”
SIPTU had supported the TEEU strike and Construction Sector Organiser Eric Fleming said that his union members had not passed the picket lines.
“A deal is a deal,” Eric Fleming said, “and employers cannot walk away from their commitments whenever they feel like it.”
 
LABOUR COURT RECOMMENDATION
The strike had begun on the previous Monday which led to hundreds of sites having pickets placed on them and 10,500 electricians going on strike. The TEEU representative also stated that the executive of the TEEU are due to meet again on Thursday of this week (as An Phoblacht hits the streets) to review the situation.
The Labour Court has recommended that all parties adhere to the Registered Employer Agreement which binds employers in the trades to pay certain rates to employees.
This recommendation provides increases due to the electricians of 2.5% from September this year and a further 2.4% from January of 2010. This percentage increase will mean an extra €1.05 for the electricians. It also provides for a review of the REA in four months’ time.
Representatives for the electricians’ employers had been pursuing cuts to the workers’ wages of 10%. The union have stated that should the employers’ body refuse to accept the Labour Court recommendation then the dispute will be reactivated and the ICTU all-out picket will be vigorously pursued. Despite this, temporary injunctions secured by Diageo, Irish Distillers and Cadburys preventing the electricians from picketing will remain in place until 23 July.

EMPLOYERS’ RESPONSE
The employers’ representative bodies have not yet responded to the LRC recommendation.
The Association of Electrical Contractors of Ireland are balloting their 300 members this week on whether to accept the agreement, however it is unlikely that they will have their decision ready by the time the TEEU meets on Thursday.
The Electrical Contractors’ Association represents about 50 major contractors and is also deciding on whether to accept the agreement.
A breakaway employers’ group, the National Electrical Contractors of Ireland (NECI), is not part of the negotiating process but stated it is “in complete dismay of the Labour Court’s recommendations”.
It is believed that the employers are divided on the issue and legal action may be issued against the proceedings by the NECI.

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