28 May 2009 Edition
Trade union say dockers' redundancy figures are exaggerated
BY STEPHANIE LORD
AN ATTEMPT by a major employer in Dublin Port to force through the collective dismissal of its dockers has been referred by SIPTU to the Government under the Protection of Employment Act, 2007. The company, Marine Terminals, accounts for at least 25% of port traffic.
The union move followed an unsuccessful meeting at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) where the management team insisted on security personnel being present during the talks. Union negotiators objected to the presence of the security personnel as intimidating. The LRC Industrial Relations Officer chairing the talks also told the company it was inappropriate to bring security personnel to negotiations.
SIPTU-MPGWU Organiser Oliver McDonagh said:
“We used to have very good relations with the company until it was taken over by its new Scottish-based owners, Peel Port, a few months ago.
“The new owners have shown nothing but contempt for Irish workers, our industrial relations procedures and our institutions.
“They demanded 13 redundancies at the terminal and, having received five applications for voluntary redundancies, proceeded to make another 14 workers redundant last Friday, including one of our shop stewards. They have issued the rest of our members with new contracts and told them they have until Sunday to sign or be dismissed.
“This incident was merely the latest in a series aimed at intimidating our members and our shop stewards. We have a strike mandate for industrial action from Friday but, in the interests of trying to find a settlement to a dispute that could cause serious disruption to Dublin Port, we have referred the dispute to the Secretary General of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment under the Protection of Employment Act, 2007.”
The Act provides for the immediate referral of collective redundancies to a special panel on which unions and employers are represented to decide if the action of the employer contravenes its terms. The Act was passed to prevent a recurrence of the Irish Ferries situation, where an employer made a large number of workers redundant because it wanted to replace them with new workers on poorer pay and conditions.
McDonagh also said that figures given by Marine Terminals about the redundancy package on offer to employees at Dublin Port are inaccurate and far less generous than suggested.
“The figures given by the company suggest the average redundancy package is worth about €75,000,” McDonagh said. “The average offer is only worth €35,000 and some employees would receive as little as €11,000. The company’s attempt to portray employees as overpaid, unreasonable and grasping does nothing to help resolve this dispute. In fact, it reinforces the impression that MTL is trying to provoke a strike.”
It is also believed that the company has threatened to sack many workers by Sunday if they do not accept pay cuts of around €10,000 per year and work longer hours.