Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams speaking in the Dáil has expressed his grave concern at the impact of the closure of the Authentic Food Company on the almost 200 workers employed there. The workers have received “no notice pay, no P45, no reference, and no redundancy payment. They will receive no wages during the 30 day consultation period or the two week notice period. This means that families with mortgages and other financial bills will have no money for six weeks.”
Gerry Adams TD called on the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty to “take urgent action to ensure that workers from the Authentic Food Company have access to social welfare”.
Teachta Adams also urged the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphrey’s “to investigate whether the closure of this business was a tactical insolvency by the British based company, and what steps she is taking to ensure that either a new buyer is found for the plant or the workforce is reemployed as quickly as possible.”
On Wednesday Gerry Adams TD met with the Liquidator, spoke to Enterprise Ireland and met with representatives of the UNITE union.
Speaking in the Dáil Gerry Adams said:
“I first wrote to the company on 21 September having been contacted by workers and their representatives about rumours that Authentic Food was closing. The company did not respond to my initial correspondence or to representations from Sinn Féin Councillors Ruairí Ó Murchú and Anne Campbell.
Instead on 19 October the company went to the High Court. Staff at Authentic Foods then received notice that the company was allegedly insolvent and unable to pay wages,
The Managing Director of Authentic Foods, Nik Basran, claims that the management carried out a comprehensive review of the business to try and find a way to make it profitable over the long term but he said this was not possible.
The Minister has a responsibility to ask what type of review is it that excludes the workers’ representatives, that refuses to engage directly with UNITE. What kind of review is it that can be manipulated by employers so that these workers have no notice pay, no P45, no reference, and no redundancy payment. This is very calculated. It is sharp practice.
Will the Minister give the Dáil a commitment that she will investigate whether this is a tactical insolvency? We need to establish if the British based Authentic Food Company deliberately wound down the Dundalk plant.
The work force has been treated shamefully. They can’t access social welfare. I would urge the Minister for Social Protection to use her discretion to ensure that workers get their social welfare payments as soon as possible.
I would ask the Minister for Enterprise to do everything possible to have this workforce reemployed as quickly as possible. The government needs to make it very clear that it does not countenance companies refusing to talk to trade unions in situations involving a restructuring or a closure.
There is also an urgent need to prevent liquidations being used in a tactical manner to the advantage of the companies and the disadvantage of workers, their families and community.
Let me remind the Dáil that Sinn Féin has already introduced a Bill that would give trade unions “the right to be heard” in matters of industrial relations – the 2018 Trade Union Representation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2018
We have also had a bill passed at second stage that would address the issue of tactical insolvencies – the 2016 Protection of Employees (Collective Redundancies) Bill.
Despite the fact that it was passed unanimously by the Dáil at second stage the government decided to block it from going to third stage committee via a money message. I ask the government to ensure government support for this Bill.”