Imelda Munster: Government must protect workers’ rights as strike continues at Premier Periclase

IImelda Munster, Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath has again raised the matter of the ongoing industrial action at Premier Periclase, RHI Magnesita, in the Dáil.

Deputy Munster was speaking as workers at the plant spend their fourth week on the picket line, due to the collapse of a long-standing collective agreement at the company, and the company’s refusal to engage with worker representatives at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

Deputy Munster said:

“This dispute isn’t about a pay rise. It’s due to the company’s proposal to lay off workers and put others on reduced hours while transferring work to non-union labour and retaining contractors on site.

“It’s classic union-busting and we must stand up against this type of behaviour.

“Workers had no choice but to take to the picket lines, as management repeatedly refused to engage in talks at the WRC in any meaningful way.

“Four days into the strike, the company issued letters to workers informing them that the long-standing collective agreement with SIPTU and Unite the Union was no longer valid.

“Since then the company has attending the WRC, but is still refusing to sit around the table with the unions are the WRC to resolve this matter.

“I have written to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD, and the CEO of the RHI Magnesita asking them to intervene and ensure that the company engages with unions at the WRC.  Yesterday I asked the Minister of State Damien English TD to do the same, and I implored him to protect workers’ rights in this state.

“The Minister of State maintained the usual hands-off response and referred to the voluntary nature of industrial relations in this state.

“I am very concerned that if this type of behaviour goes unchecked it will be a race to the bottom for workers’ rights, as other companies follow suit.

“Workers took a 5% pay cut in 2016 when the company was in financial trouble. This is no longer the case, and the company was in a position to give a 20% pay increase to their CEOs. The workers want to engage with management, but they are refusing to do.

“Workers have fought long and hard for their rights. The WRC is the state apparatus to resolve disputes of this type, and the company won’t engage with them. The state has a duty to ensure that all parties act in good faith and engage with WRC in cases of this type. As usual our government has washed their hands of this and have left workers out in the cold.”