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Human Rights in Ireland >>
Striking Green Isle workers set for hunger strike
TEEU says hunger strike at Green Isle Foods will last until dispute ends
TEEU shop steward Jim Wyse says tomorrow’s hunger strike at Green Isle Foods will continue until six months dispute ends
The Technical Engineering and Electrical Union shop steward Jim Wyse, who is to go on hunger strike from noon tomorrow (Wednesday, February 17th) outside the Green Isle Foods plant in Naas said the protest will continue until the six months old dispute is resolved. “They told staff inside that we could stay out here until we rot, and they obviously meant it”, he said. “We mean what we say too.
“For five of the last six months the company has refused to talk to us. In spite of all we have been through we contacted the company after Christmas to ask for talks on the basis of the Labour Court recommendations, which were in our favour. They wouldn’t meet with TEEU officials but agreed to meet us in direct talks. We accepted as we felt we had the Labour Court findings as a guide.
“There were three meetings over four weeks. Each lasted about ten minutes. They didn’t even bring a notebook with them. We even offered a compromise based on less than the Court’s terms.
“They said they would consider our proposals and came back two weeks later to tell us it would cost too much and to come up with something else. It was at that stage we decided they were just stringing us along.
“They are saying in the papers this morning that they have been organising new talks through a third party but this the first we have heard about.” Jim Wyse says that in the light of past events the hunger strike will not be called off until there is a resolution of the dispute.
“They want us to go back on new pay and conditions and leave the three lads dismissed. This protest has to start on tomorrow”, he said. “We have to save our dignity and self-respect. We’re not going to be walked on”. Jim will be staying in a caravan on the picket line during the hunger strike. Every week that the dispute drags on another man will join him on the hunger strike.
Jim Wyse and his fellow workers accepted Labour Court recommendations to resolve the dispute in December and again in January. The Labour Court ordered Green Isle to pay the dismissed men €40,000, €60,000 and €80,000 compensation respectively last December. When the company refused to pay the awards the Labour Court recommended the reinstatement of the men with full pay.
Jim is 58 and has been with the company 13 years. He is married with five grown up children, four grand children “and another one on the way”. His youngest son is with him on the picket line. “It is the younger people it is affecting most”, he says. One of the dismissed men, who has 16 years with Green Isle, has several young children.
The TEEU has called on fellow trade unionists to support the protest rally in Naas being organised by the Kildare Council of Trade Unions for Saturday February 27th in support of the men. The rally will be at the Storm Cinema car park in Naas and a march will follow to the Green Isle Foods plant, where the men have been on strike since August 2009.
The union’s General Secretary Designate, Eamon Devoy, says management has refused to engage with the TEEU, the Labour Relations Commission, the National Implementation Body or the Labour Court. “This totally unreasonable behaviour is being undertaken by a company that has received €43 million in state aid.”
He added that on December 4th, 2009, the Labour Court had issued a preliminary recommendation ‘that the parties negotiate a settlement, through an intermediary if necessary, and if no resolution can be found to revert to the Labour Court, who will issue a further Recommendation’. The TEEU accepted the recommendation. As the company refused to engage the Court issued a further recommendation on January 5th, 2010, stating that, ‘The Court believes that the appropriate redress in this case is that the workers be reinstated without loss of pay and the Court so recommends’.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has granted the TEEU an All-Out picket against Green Isle Foods. Its products include Goodfellas and San Marco pizzas, Donegal Catch, a variety of savoury filled pastries, potatoes and other vegetables.