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Wildcat strike in Musgrave Warehouse In Dublin
Warehouse Crew Down Tools Against Discrimination
On 27th of April a spontaneous wildcat strike broke out in MUSGRAVE warehouses in Dublin. The whole crew, around 80 people, both immigrant and natives - in solidarity stopped their work after successive acts of discrimination by the management.
Musgrave is a big Irish corporation, which owns Cetra and Supervalu in the Republic of Ireland, Londis and Budgens in Great Britain and other networks in Spain. In their warehouse in Dublin, where the strike started, immigrants make up around 50% of the staff, officially employed by work agencies and hired by (or rather rented to) MUSGRAVE.
Many of them are Polish. Agency workers are continuously discriminated by managers, their work conditions are definitively worse, they're paid less and haven't got any rights. Their situation was getting worse week after week. Part of the them joined the Independent Workers Union, few joined SIPTU, the biggest union in Ireland, off which all the Irish staff employed directly by MUSGRAVE are members.
On the day of the strike, one of the managers gave out a new work schedule for the agency workers. Their breaks were cut short compared to the old ones. According to the new rules, the agency workers were meant to work four hours in a row, and it is important to mention that the temperature in there warehouse is just around 4 degrees Celsius! At the same time, contract workers kept their right to a break every hour. The same day, one of the agency workers got fired because he couldn't find a pallet with the article that he was meant to distribute. Although that the mistake, as it was noticed, was made by the manager, he held up his decision, and sent the worker home for no reason. This day, the segregation of orders - good ones for Irish and bad ones for the immigrants was too much to stand. The agency workers stopped their work and moved to the canteen. After few minutes the Irish workers joined them, loudly manifesting their support for the strike. The strike broke out at 7pm.
After less then an hour, representatives of the three agencies which rent workers to MUSGRAVE came. Using threats and pleading they tried to convince the workers to come back to work, but they got hissed. Soon after that the representatives of SIPTU and the agency workers unionised in IWU came. The first of them tried to use a tactic of compromise, underlining the alleged illegality of the strike. He tried to bluff people into believing that they can achieve anything with negotiations and legal steps. But he didn't manage to convince neither the agency workers nor, what's even more interesting, workers from his own union, SIPTU, employed on contracts. The representatives of the IWU called out for the continuation of the strike and hard demands. Soon he was removed by the security on the order of MUSGRAVE'S chief. He was meant to say that only SIPTU is operating in the warehouse and no other unions got the right to be here. In response to that the agency workers didn't agree for any negotiations and stayed in the canteen. Meanwhile the IWU representative, 65 years old Ray O'Reill spent about 2 hours waiting in front of the warehouse gates. In the same time, MUSGRAVE management, together with the SIPTU leader (sic!) tried to convince agency workers on Irish workers remaining on their side to come back to work. They threatened everybody with loss of work and illegality of the strike. Workers unionised in SIPTU successfully countered the arguments of their leader, and continued to support their friends from agencies. In the end the whole group of agency workers that wanted to meet the IWU representative left the site and went to meet him outside the gate. It was agreed there that the night shift is going to go back to work, and the rest goes back home. It was also decided to postpone any further actions to Tuesday. Then, agency workers of all shifts are going to come to MUSGRAVE together for the talks with the management.