Nearly 35 engineers at Green Isle Foods in Naas have been on strike since 31 August to defend three of their colleagues from being sacked on trumped up charges of breaching the company’s IT policy. The sackings are an attempt to break the workers’ union, the TEEU at Green Isle.
The company has accused the sacked workers of leaking plans that management were to layoff six engineers after one worker was inadvertently given access to confidential files on the company’s IT system. As soon as management found out that the workers were aware of their plans, they suspended four staff last March, who were immediately brought by management to the High Court in the hope of the Court issuing a gagging clause on the workers. Despite reaching an out-of-court agreement with Green Isle, the four workers were only re-instated after the union threatened to take strike action.
Management continued to initiate a number of separate investigations concerning the breach of IT policy, refusing to discuss the terms of the investigation with the union and suspending one worker in mid- June for storing “inappropriate” material in his email inbox. Further threats of action by union members forced his re-instatement.
Despite an investigation into the original leak ruling that Green Isle’s IT system was not secure, protected or properly monitored, management proceeded to unilaterally sack three engineers and to refuse their appeal.
A unanimous vote by TEEU members to take solidarity action with their colleagues resulted in pickets being placed on the company with workers continuing to demand the re-instatement of their colleagues. The company has been using scab labour and threats of legal action against the strikers in attempt to break their picket.
Green Isle has consistently refused to negotiate or discuss with the workers or their trade union and have refused offers of talks at the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court. Management have stated that “it is company practice not to recognise Trade Unions” as grounds for not attending the LRC.
The attacks on the Green Isle workers are along the same lines as what has happened to the workers at Coca Cola, the MTL dockers, and Manor Nursing Home along with many others. Employers are employing “dirty tactics” and using the excuse of the recession in order to drive through draconian changes to working conditions and wages. In the case of Green Isle they are trying to use a bogus claim of a breach of company rules to sack workers and drive out the union.
It is unfortunate that strikers in many disputes have not had the full backing of the trade union leaders. Union leaders are holding back on fully engaging in a battle with the employers – instead of organising vital solidarity action and mobilising the full power of the unions they are instead more concerned with court rulings and the Industrial Relations Act.
An all out ICTU picket has been in place since September, but more needs to be done. Thirty scabs are being put up by the company at the Killashee House Hotel and driven to the site by a private bus company.
Scabs were used in the MTL Docks strike, Coca Cola and now at Green Isle. ICTU and the union leaders should take militant direct action that involves the mobilisation of trade unionists in large numbers to stop the scabs from crossing picket lines and stealing these workers jobs. If the scabs were driven out then the strikers would be in a stronger position to force Green Isle to re-instate the sacked workers and to recognise the TEEU.
Donations to the strike fund can be made to:
Ulster Bank, Main St, Clane, County Kildare.
Account No 10215914
Sort code 985454