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INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: Don't pay the ferry men
Annual article: A year in industrial relations reviewed.
The Whole Hog, 20 Dec 2005
2005 will be remembered for two industrial disputes, the Gama workers’ strike and the terror tactics of management at Irish Ferries.
For a number of years, the trade unions of this country have lain dormant. They appeared happy to believe that the Celtic Tiger was paddling along nicely, that any leaks could be plugged with ease.
However, Irish Ferries has sunk a gaping hole into the side of the social partnership boat, and the trade unions are waking up in a panic. Will rearranging the deck chairs make any difference?
First off in 2004 was the Gama dispute. Gama Construction are a Turkish construction company who have been involved in major projects such as the Huntstown and Tynagh power stations.
In March of this year there was an outcry, when the company admitted that most of its 800 Turkish employees had been receiving less than the legal minimum rate for the construction industry.
Money that should, apparently, have been paid to the workers was put (by Gama) into Dutch bank accounts in the worker’s names, but they had never known about these accounts.
Allegations about this had been made previously while Mary Harney was Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment – but it appears she didn’t pursue the complaints.
Then, in April, it emerged that Polish workers involved in the construction of the Port Tunnel were receiving half the wages of their Irish counterparts. The workers asked why there are more dog wardens than labour inspectors in this country.
Another group of workers in dispute over wages owed to them were postal workers. Their union, the Communication’s Workers Union (CWU) organised a one day strike in 2004 demanding that the management at An Post pay the workers what they were due from previous pay agreements.
Incredibly, throughout 2005 the management still refused to budge. As a result, the CWU called another stoppage on November 7th. The dispute will be one to watch in 2006, as workers are worried that plans for the break-up and privatisation of An Post are in the pipeline.