Unite agrees not to trespass on Rhatigan building sites
Picket placed in dispute over company’s use of subcontractors instead of direct employees
Workers at the Kishoge Community College, Lucan where two workmen have occupied a tower crane in protest at pay and conditions. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Trade union Unite and several of its members have undertaken before the High Court not to engage in activities including intimidation, harassment or blocking entrances to building sites operated by construction firm JJ Rhatigan.
The building company had sought injunctions against Unite, two of its officials, and several members after alleging such activities were engaged in after a picket was mounted at a site at Kishoge, Lucan by members of Unite.
The picket was placed in a dispute regarding the company’s use of subcontractors rather than the traditional practice of using directly employed labour. Unite says this practise has left workers without pay, insurance cover and statutory health and safety protections, counsel said.
Rhatigan claimed a lorry was damaged, a senior employee was assaulted and intimidated and the driver of a bus bringing workers to the site was racially abused. Two members of Unite climbed a crane on the site, resulting in the site’s closure by gardai, and remained there until today.
The company had brought proceedings against Unite; Patrick Molloy, Stephen Gleeson and their company Gleeson & Molloy Bricklaying Services, subcontracted by Rhatigan’s to lay bricks for a new community school at Kishoge; several other members of the union and anyone with knowledge of the court orders.
Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said he would accept undertakings offered by the defendants not to trespass on various sites operated by Rhatigan; interfere with access and egress to the sites or engage in intimidation, assault or damage to property on the sites. He welcomed the news the two men had come down from the crane.
The defendants also agreed to limit the numbers participating in the picket at Kishoge to six people. No more than eight people can picket the site operated by Rhatigan at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra while a maximum of four can picket another Rhatigan site at Griffeen Valley, Lucan.
The union undertook not to protest at sites including the Radisson Blue Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin. Previously the court heard a large inflatable rat was flown there.
The judge did grant an injunction restraining anyone person with knowledge of the orders trespassing on the sites or interfering with access to and from the sites.
The case “raised important issues of law and fact” to be determined at a full hearing if the parties could not come to an agreement between themselves, he said.
Noting there were attempts to settle the dispute prior to the matter coming to court, he urged the sides to consider returning to mediation. He also awarded costs to Rhatigan but stayed that order pending final resolution of the case.
Earlier, Tom Mallon BL, for the company, argued the undertakings were insufficient given the “appalling” incidents at the Kishoge site and asked the court for various orders against the defendants, including prohibiting any picketing. He argued no bona fide trade dispute exists and it is not the employer of the workers picketing the sites.
Oisin Quinn SC, for Unite and the individual defendants, opposed the bid to stop any picketing and argued the undertaking being offered by the defendants was sufficient. The union contends it has a bona fide trade dispute with Rhatigan arising from concerns about the increasing use by constructions firms of subcontractors to replace traditional direct labour.