16 July 2009 Edition
Dublin Port dispute over dismissals
BY STEPHANIE LORD
FOLLOWING an attempt by major employer Marine Terminal Ltd in Dublin Port last month to force through the collective dismissal of its dockers, workers represented by SIPTU are seeking an all-out picket from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for the port.
More than 70 workers placed a picket on the MTL building last Friday in an attempt to prevent the company imposing the compulsory redundancies and changing pay rates and work conditions for the dockers. Tensions are rising now as it is believed that the company is making considerable efforts to break the union.
SIPTU Branch Organiser Oliver McDonagh said:
“We have made repeated efforts to engage with the employers, as have the Labour Relations Commission, since the strike began but every approach has been rebuffed. Instead, the company has insisted on communicating with us only through their legal team and the courts.
“The dispute is over attempts by the company to impose compulsory redundancies and cuts in the pay and conditions of the workforce. The Labour Court issued an opinion last month in favour of the union under the Protection of Employment Act 2007 over an attempt by the company to make most of the workforce redundant.
The union remains available for talks but since Peel Ports took over the Marine Terminal operations last year it has shown “a consistent unwillingness to treat with the union or accept agreed procedures for dealing with problems”.
The union rep told of how Labour Relations Commission discussions had to be abandoned when the company brought security personnel into negotiations. MTL then put the workforce on a 20-hour week and deployed new workers from Scotland and the Six Counties to take up the slack. MTL have secured a court injunction to prevent the picket from “interfering with business” and it has been reported that a Monaghan-based haulage company has broken the strike and crossed the picket line and that other haulage companies have followed this example.
“This company has behaved appallingly,” Oliver McDonagh said, “and has avoided all our attempts to negotiate with it. I can tell them now that they will get the redundancies they are looking for provided they negotiate normally and are willing to offer a decent package. The only reason we are applying for an all-out picket is the absolute refusal of the company to engage with us.”
Sinn Féin’s Dublin South-East representative, Daithí Doolan, condemned the management at MTL for what he described as bully-boy tactics which they are using in an attempt to force its workforce out of the company. “Management at MTL have introduced new employment contracts for its workers which are wholly unacceptable. The workforce has enjoyed the full support of both myself and the Sinn Féin party and will continue to do so until there is a satisfactory outcome to this dispute.”