Building company claims conduct of picketers is ‘appalling’

Large inflatable rat flown outside some sites, JJ Rhatigan & Co tells High Court

Unite trade union picket outside Kishoge Community College in Lucan, a JJ Rhatigan site. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Unite trade union picket outside Kishoge Community College in Lucan, a JJ Rhatigan site. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Builders JJ Rhatigan & Co have claimed the conduct of some people picketing a building site in west Dublin has been so “appalling” the company is entitled to injunctions restraining pickets at any of its sites. A large inflatable rat was flown outside some of the sites, it was claimed before the High Court.

The Unite trade union says it has a bona fide trade dispute with Rhatigan & Co arising from concerns about the increasing use by construction firms of subcontractors to replace traditional direct labour. This practise has left workers without pay, insurance cover and statutory health and safety protections, the union says.

Since a picket was mounted at the site at Kishoge, Lucan by members of Unite, vehicles have been blocked when attempting to enter or leave the premises, Tom Mallon BL, for the company, complained.

A lorry was damaged, a senior employee was assaulted and intimidated and the driver of a bus bringing workers to the site, where a new school is being built, was racially abused, he said.

Two people who earlier this week climbed to the top of a large crane at the Lucan site remain there and the site has been closed, the court heard.

Protests have also taken place at other sites where Rhatigan’s or related companies are opertaing, including the Radisson Blu Hotel, outside which a large inflatable rat was flown, and loud music and sirens were played by protesters, counsel said. Guests were disturbed and intimidated, it was claimed.

Mr Mallon said the company contends no bona fide trade dispute exists and it is not the employer of the workers picketing the sites. The court heard these had asked to be made direct employees of Rhatigan.

JJ Rhatigan & Co Ltd and related companies are seeking injunctions restraining trespass on various sites or interference with access and egress from them. The sites are at Kishoge and Griffeen Valley, Lucan; St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra; the Radisson Blu Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin and any other property or premises belonging to Rhatigans.

The orders are sought against Unite; Patrick Molloy, Stephen Gleeson and their company Gleeson & Molloy Bricklaying Services which had been subcontracted by Rhatigans to lay bricks for the new community school; several other members of the union and anyone with knowledge of the court orders.

Oisin Quinn SC, for Unite and the individual defendants, said any order prohibiting picketing would “be going too far” and Unite would give an undertaking not to intimidate, interfere with or block the entrances where the pickets had been placed.

Unite had a valid trade dispute with Rhatigan and its concern was about a trend where construction workers are no longer being directly employed by construction firms, he said. This had resulted in workers ending up on less favourable terms of employment and the union also had concerns about health and safety at work.

Unite did not support the actions of the two workers who climbed onto the crane at the Kishoge site and believed the two men should come down, he added.

Tom Fitzgerald, Industrial Organiser with Unite’s construction sector, said in an affidavit he had done everything he could to alleviate the situation concerning the men at the crane whose action was not authorised or supported.

Mr Fitzgerald said he had had insufficient time to take instructions about the other allegations but the union would investigate those. It was not to be deemed as accepting the allegations, he added. There would be no more protests at the hotel, he added.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, after being shown video clips of the protests, expressed his concern about Unite’s ability to control its members and said the two men on the crane were not helping anyone. The hearing resumes tomorrow.