National Gallery staff stage one-day strike
Attendants protest changes in staff leave and loss of St Stephen’s Day bonus
National Gallery attendant staff John McDonnell (left) and Bill Vernon protest outside the gallery yesterday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
The Minister for Jobs and Enterprise Richard Bruton has said he regrets that staff at the National Gallery rejected a Labour Court recommendation and staged a one-day strike yesterday over annual leave.
Attendant staff at the National Gallery of Ireland took to the picket line in protest at plans to reduce their annual leave by seven days.
About 39 Siptu members of the attendant staff, who are responsible for the management and maintenance of rooms at the gallery, took part in the stoppage in protest at the annual leave reductions as well as the the loss of a special payment for St Stephen’s Day.
The staff contended that the withdrawal of holidays was in breach of the “standardisation of leave” agreement within the public service.
Speaking at the picket, Jason Palmer, industrial organiser for Siptu, said workers would be available only for “meaningful” talks with management.
“All the workers here today are trying to do is give themselves a bit of leverage to maintain at least as much of the conditions as possible.”
The Department of Jobs and Enterprise said the Minister regretted that staff had not accepted the Labour Court recommendation in the dispute.
“The Labour Court conducts hearings on trade disputes and issues recommendations setting out its opinion on the dispute and the terms on which it should be settled.
“The Labour Court is a court of last resort in the industrial relations process and it is expected that the parties come to the process in good faith and consequently are prepared to give serious consideration to the court’s recommendation.
“The Minister understands that management of the National Gallery has proceeded to implement the Labour Court recommendation and that they continue to be available for discussion with Siptu and he would urge the parties to engage constructively to resolve the issues in dispute.”
In February the Labour Court announced there was “no justification” for the continuation of special day arrangements and recommended that management adjust leave arrangements for attendant staff.
The special day arrangements, implemented in 2007, made an extra three days of leave available to staff who worked late on certain shifts.
The court also recommended the removal of premium payments for workers on St Stephen’s Day.
National Gallery management have since implemented these recommendations.
Colm Croke, who works in security, said staff had taken a number of pay cuts in the last few years and were down more than €100 a week.
A spokeswoman for the gallery said that it continued to be available for discussions with Siptu.