Sinn Féin councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú has successfully brought a motion to Louth County Council regarding the ongoing industrial dispute between healthcare support workers and the government.
Councillor Ó Murchú said:
“I brought a motion to Louth County Council to demonstrate solidarity with the healthcare support workers.
“This motion was called on the Government to honour commitments made to these workers.
“I joined these staff on the picket line at Louth County Hospital in June.
“The staff I met were healthcare assistants, technicians, porters, cooking and cleaning staff, absolutely essential to the workings of any healthcare facility.
“They did not want to be out on strike, they told me that they hated disrupting the already difficult job of the medical staff, they hated the inconvenience to patients and they really just wanted to get on with their jobs.
“However these people, mostly women, were united in their sense of injustice at the way they had been treated and they felt they had absolutely no option but to send a strong message to the Government by withdrawing their labour.
“As part of the outworkings of the Landsdown Road Agreement, they are due a pay increase which the Government does not want to pay.
“I know that SIPTU Health representatives have accepted an invitation to attend the Labour Court on Monday 22nd July and I wish them well in those negotiations.
“Everyone hopes there is no further strike action necessary.
“We stand with these workers and demand that the Government honours agreements already made and pays these workers what they are owed now.”
Cllrs Ó Murchú & Campbell with staff from Irish Life
Dundalk councillors Ruairi O Murchu and Anne Campbell have given their support to the striking workers at Irish Life.
A majority of the 180-strong Dundalk workforce at the country’s largest pension provider took part in the one-day stoppage, along with their colleagues in the Irish Life centre in Dublin, in protest at plans by the multi-million euro firm to take employees out of the defined benefit pension scheme and put them into the defined contribution one instead.
The Sinn Fein councillors spent time with the striking workers, who are members of the Unite union, hearing how the proposed changes will affect the employees in Dundalk, some of whom have been with the company since it first opened here nearly 17 years ago.
In a joint statement, Cllrs. O Murchu and Campbell said: ‘We went to the Irish Life picket line today to support the Dundalk workers of the company who are facing a situation where they believe they could lose 30% of their pension entitlements.
‘It was clear to see that the strike was being well-supported by the local community, judging by the sounding of car horns and waves from those driving by on the Inner Relief Road.
‘We spoke to a number of the workers, some of whom joined the company after 2007 and were put into the defined contribution scheme, and they were very supportive of their colleagues who face losing their defined benefit pension.
‘Some of them told us that the defined benefit pension promise was one of the reasons they had remained at the company for so long.
‘Sinn Fein stands with the Irish Life workers and we call on the company, which made around €200 million profit last year and which is, ironically, Ireland’s biggest pension provider, to engage with the Dundalk and Dublin workers immediately in a bid to come to a properly-negotiated and fair settlement’.
With Bus Eireann workers being left with no option but to strike from next Monday, Sinn Féin Councillor Antóin Watters has called for the management to reconsider their position and think of “the inconvenience it will cause to those in rural areas who are dependent on this transport”.
Cllr Watters said “I have been speaking to concerned citizens who already feel isolated in rural areas and now they are facing their lifeline being cut off. They depend on the bus service to take them to doctor’s appointments, hospital appointments, shopping and much more. These are citizens that have seen their rural way of life become more challenging with cuts to what little services they had”.
Cllr Watters said “Bus Eireann Management have no idea what effect their decision will have on ordinary people; the disruption it will cause to school children and workers getting to and from work; the further isolation of our older people and the vulnerable.
“Do not underestimate the value of the rural bus service. Bus Eireann management have shown a total disregard to the people of Cooley and other rural areas. We need to oppose this Government’s policy of privatising our public transport or we face losing our bus services altogether.”
Cllr Watters had a final message to Bus Eireann management, “Get your act together and get this sorted, it is not the fault of the workers, perhaps you need to look closer to home. You are causing massive inconvenience to people in rural areas. You are playing with people’s lives, stop it!”
Dunnes Stores have 113 stores, including seven of which are in Louth.
Three in Dundalk and four in Drogheda.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD expressed Sinn Féin’s “solidarity and absolute and unambiguous support for the Dunnes Stores workers in Dundalk who are taking industrial action today as part of their campaign for decent working conditions, wages and standard of living for them and their families.”
Gerry Adams said:
“In my recent letter to the Directors of Dunnes Stores I made very clear Sinn Fein’s support for the Decency for Dunnes Workers Campaign. I also expressed our total support for their right to secure hours and incomes; secure jobs; fair pay; and the right to trade union representation.
The Decency for Dunnes Workers is calling for the introduction of banded hour contracts to give workers security of hours and earning; fair and consistent work; and a review of Dunnes excessive use of temporary contracts of employment.
The workers and Mandate Trade Union have tried to resolve this dispute directly with Dunnes Management. They have also sought to use the State’s mechanisms for resolving industrial disputes such as the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court.
Dunnes has rejected all attempts at mediation and negotiation and have broken an existing 1996 agreement procedure for resolving industrial disputes.
The Dunnes Workers are taking a stand in defence of their own rights but also in support of low-paid workers, part time and casual workers across this state who are victim of exploitation.
Sinn Féin Louth County Councillor Imelda Munster said today that the Government’s failure to legislate to protect the rights of those in precarious and low paid employment has set the scene for the upcoming strike on Holy Thursday by Dunnes Stores workers.
Councillor Munster, who is also a candidate in the upcoming General Election said:
“Sinn Féin is standing in solidarity with the Dunnes workers here in Louth and indeed across the country, who have found themselves left with no choice but to engage in strike action this Thursday (2nd April) as a result of the actions of their very profitable employer.
“Dunnes Stores workers are being treated unfairly and I applaud their bravery and courage in standing their ground amid reports of intimidation and harassment of those planning to stand at the picket lines.
“This campaign is about fair terms and conditions, it is about decent pay, decent work and the right of the workers to have their trade union representation recognised and respected”.
Councillor Munster then called on “the political representatives of all parties and the public in general to show their solidarity and support for the Dunnes stores workers in any way they can. Let’s send a clear message to the management of Dunnes Stores and let them know that it is not acceptable to treat staff in this manner and it will not be tolerated.
“There can be no doubt that the 129,000 low paid workers across this state have been badly let down by this Government. Despite the clear commitment by the Labour Party after a complaint was taken to the International Labour Organisation in 2011, we are still awaiting the legislation to give effect to the right of workers to collective bargaining and bring Ireland into line with its international obligations in this area.
“Similarly, despite the fact that a Mandate report on low paid and precarious work was presented to Oireachtas members two years ago, the Government has failed to take action to adequately protect vulnerable workers in this category.
“It is time for the Government to wake up and realise that we cannot build an economy on low pay and reduced terms and conditions for workers. It is ordinary workers like those in Dunnes Stores that are the foundations of our economy and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect by their employer and Government alike.”