Dispute by engineers at Co Limerick refinery referred to Labour Court

Strike action over pay and allowances suspended at Aughinish Alumina

The Aughinish Alumina Refinery on the Shannon Estuary near Foynes Co Limerick.

The Aughinish Alumina Refinery on the Shannon Estuary near Foynes Co Limerick.

 

A proposed strike by engineering workers at Aughinish Alumina refinery in Co Limerick due to take place later this week has been suspended and the dispute has been referred to the Labour Court.

The suspension of the industrial action came after High Court proceedings by Murphy International Ltd (MIL) against the engineering workers trade union Unite were resolved following talks between the parties.

The workers had voted to go on strike in a dispute over pay and allowances. Co Kildare-based MIL, which employs 126 civil and mechanical operatives in the refinery’s production operations, had last week initiated proceedings aimed at securing a High Court injunction preventing the strike proceedings. The company claimed the action could result in the refinery being shut down. MIL secured permission to serve short notice of proceedings against Unite and its injunction application was due to be heard by the High Court on Wednesday.

Following talks between lawyers for the sides, Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds was informed by Mark Connaughton SC, with Eoghan Cole, for the company, the matter had been resolved and the case could be struck out.

Oisín Quinn SC, with William Hamilton, for Unite said his side was consenting to that order. The parties have agreed the industrial action is to be suspended and the matter referred to the Labour Court.

Picketing

Previously the court heard MIL was informed earlier this month by Unite that its workers at the refinery had voted to take a number of measures including picketing and withdrawal of labour.

MIL argued there was no valid trade dispute, as set out in the 1990 Industrial Relations Act, between the parties. It also raised issues about the validity of the secret ballot of the workers which was conducted by Unite in September. It claimed, if the strike proceeded, the refinery may have to cease operations with serious consequences for MIL, its workers and all those involved in the operation of the Aughinish refinery. As a result, MIL sought various orders including an injunction preventing the industrial action. It also sought declarations, including that a notice of industrial action issued by the union was null and void due to the union’s alleged failure to conduct a full and proper secret ballot.