Abbey sacks set builders in outsourcing move

The Socialist Party spoke to a member of the Building and Allied Trade Union who works at The Abbey Theatre where there is a dispute brewing over the outsourcing of jobs.

The Abbey Theatre is essentially run as a commercial state body. In the last year it has received €8.35 million of tax payer’s money from the Dept of Art, Heritage and Gaeltacht. There are four BATU members who are set builders and 30 SIPTU members who perform other duties.

The work of the set builders is under threat of being outsourced to a firm in Britain. They have balloted successfully for industrial action. About five of the SIPTU members are also threatened with redundancy but they have not balloted yet though the mood for action among the members is very strong.

After a fortnight’s fruitless negotiations at the Labour Relations Commission the workers were told by management that their jobs are gone. They were also told that the longer they take to agree to redundancy terms the smaller the offer will get!

Ironically the company had commissioned a number of private consultant reports on the running of the theatre none of which recommended outsourcing the set building. Then an “advisor” with previous connections to a firm in Britain which stands to benefit from the outsourcing was then engaged by the company to come up with the answer they wanted.

The workers had offered to go to a three day week and also came up with a proposal to build sets for other theatres in Ireland on a commercial basis to support their jobs but the company disregarded these offers.

The Abbey Theatre has a statutory brief to promote all aspects of stage craft including set building which is being ignored. With the statutory grant they get the government is essentially subsidising an outsourcing operation. Talk about moving the Abbey to the GPO for 2016 as a patriotic gesture is rightly seen as a sick joke by the workers.

In the meantime people are encouraged to register their protest to Declan Cantwell, Director of Finance and Admin , 086 2382418 or Fiach Mac Conghail , Artistic Director 087 9476857