Dublin dockers postpone Marine Terminal strike action

A PLANNED dockers strike and blockade of cargo depots in Dublin this Friday has been postponed.

The dockers are instead to hold a second ballot to ‘underline their mandate’ and give management at south Dublin’s Marine Terminal another chance to avert the need for industrial action.

This Friday’s strike and resulting blockade of Marine Terminal would have hit petrol supplies from Dublin Port and led to the closure of access routes to and from the Port Tunnel, causing commuter chaos in the city centre.

The dispute is over attempts by the British company Peel Ports Group – the owners of Marine Terminal in Dublin’s Ringsend – to make dockers who work there sign new contracts.

They allow for an increase in the number of anti-social hours dockers will have to work and amount to an average €200-a-week pay cut for each worker in the company’s 81-strong workforce.

Yesterday an attempt to resolve the dispute failed amid bizarre scenes at the Labour Relations Commission.

Talks were due to start at 10.30am yesterday but when the Marine Terminal negotiator turned up surrounded by ex-British Army ‘body guards’, the Labour Relations Commission refused to allow the talks to go ahead unless the men left.

The security team refused to leave their Marine Terminal boss’ side and both sides left the commission without resolving their dispute.

Last night, SIPTU announced they are holding the second ballot next Monday and they also called on the government to invoke provisions of the Protection of Employment Act 2007 to save the dockers jobs.

Last night, SIPTU organiser Oliver McDonagh said: ‘We used to have very good relations with the company until it was taken over by its new Scottish based owners, Peel Port, a few months ago.

‘They have shown nothing but contempt for Irish workers, our industrial relations procedures and our institutions.

‘They demanded 13 redundancies at the terminal and, having received five applications for voluntary redundancies, proceeded to make another 14 workers redundant last Friday, including one of our shop stewards.

‘They have issued the rest of our members with new contracts and told them they have until Sunday to sign or be dismissed.’

He added: ‘The incident at the Labour Relations Commission meeting was merely the latest in a series aimed at intimidating our members and our shop stewards.

‘We have a strike mandate for industrial action from Friday but we have referred the dispute to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment under the Protection of Employment Act.

‘This is in the interests of trying to find a settlement to a dispute that could cause serious disruption to Dublin Port.’

Last night, a Peel Ports Group spokesman said: ‘We hope the union realise the salaries of €75,000 for crane operators is unsustainable in the current climate and that they reconsider our offer of up to €75,000 redundancy.’

The Protection of Employment Act 2007 gives greater protection to employees in collective redundancy situations and was brought in after the Irish Ferries dispute in 2005.

Marine Terminals Ltd has blamed the 19 redundancies from its 81-strong workforce on the current economic downturn. Marine Terminal handles more than 120,000 containers-a-year.

At weekends, from Friday to Monday morning, about 1500 containers will normally go through that depot now.

As well as food and hospital supplies, the containers also include anything from clothes to components.

The Peel Ports Group is part of Peel Holdings, which owns airports and shipyards, including Cammell Laird – which is being used to maintain British Royal Navy warships.

Billionaire John Whittacker – who part owns the Pinewood Studios home of the James Bond and Harry Potter films – is Peel’s majority owner.

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