Connolly Shoes escalates dispute by dismissing two striking workers
Thursday 03 June 2010, 12am
“This is deplorable behaviour from a company which is blatantly ignoring workers fundamental rights contained in current employment legislation,” said Gerry Light, Mandate Assistant General Secretary
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The Mandate Trade Union has strongly condemned the ‘irresponsible and potentially illegal actions’ of Connolly Shoes management, which has this morning dismissed two more members of staff while they were participating in official industrial action with their colleagues. Gerry Light, Mandate Assistant General Secretary, explained that the four staff members who have now been sacked by Connolly Shoes have over 100 years of service between them and have shown great loyalty to the company through good times and bad times.
The strike has recently been granted ‘all out strike’ status by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and has received incredible support from the public. On Friday 21 May last, hundreds of local Dun Laoghaire people, trade unionists and prominent politicians turned out in support of the workers at a public rally.
“The two workers who were dismissed today have been on strike for the last nine weeks in support of two of their colleagues who were previously dismissed for refusing to sign an undertaking which would seriously erode their terms and conditions of employment including their hours and pay. The actions of management in Connolly Shoes is clearly a breach of the workers’ fundamental employment rights and represents the tearing up of long established statutory employment legislation developed to protect ordinary workers as they participate in official industrial action.”
Gerry Light said that Connolly Shoes have persistently refused to accept an invitation to attend the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) which was extended to them over six weeks ago by the Director of Conciliation, Kevin Foley. Mandate has already accepted this invitation and the union says that attendance at the LRC is the only way in which this dispute can be resolved in the immediate future.
“It seems incredible that the Director of Connolly Shoes, Matthew Connolly, and his business partner, Mr Aidan Nevin, have allowed this dispute to continue as long as it has. Their ongoing refusal to engage in meaningful discussions and to utilise the State’s mechanisms for resolving industrial disputes like the Labour Relations Commission is a deplorable decision. He has now sacked four workers for asserting their employment rights rather than try to sit down and discuss the issues at hand like a responsible employer should do.
“It is clear that accepting the invitation to attend the Labour Relations Commission would represent the most efficient and quickest way in which this dispute could be resolved. This is obviously in the best interests of everybody including the loyal workers they have dismissed and also their existing staff members in their other shops located in Bray and Arklow.” concluded Mr Light.
Background to dispute
Last autumn, the workers held a strike but the action was suspended as a result of agreements reached between the workers and their employer which would see staff working reduced hours as a compromise. However, since then management have:
· Reneged on that agreement with regard to staff working a 3 day week. They have changed rosters and further reduced hours without consultation;
· Issued an ultimatum to certain staff insisting that they agree to work any roster issued by management and perform any duties that management deem necessary or else face dismissal;
· Actually dismissed two employees, each with more than 30 year’s service, for not signing this document;
· Been found guilty of breaches of the Payment of Wages Act, but have refused to pay the compensation awarded to staff;
· Continued to refuse to recognise Mandate Trade Union or to attend Labour Relations Commission or Rights Commissioners’ Hearings.
Mandate and the workers involved have made genuine efforts to resolve all of the issues with the employer in order to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. However, we have been met with continued aggression and hostility since we called off the initial strike. It’s clear that management played off the trusting nature of their employees by negotiating a settlement in order to end the dispute last autumn, and then continued with the unilateral deterioration of their terms and conditions.