Delegates hail members on strike for recognition
DELEGATES to the Mandate conference in Cork gave a standing ovation to seven members who have been involved in a union recognition dispute for the past four months at the Early Learning Centre shop in the city.
Most of the staff at the centre joined the union last May and have been on strike since December 6th. The union's divisional organiser, Mr Jim O'Connell, said that the company paid £2 an hour less than other employers in Cork.
The union had unsuccessfully sought meetings over several months and it was only on the eve of a threatened strike that two executives of the parent company in Britain had come to Cork to discuss the situation. The union agreed to defer action for two weeks to allow discussions, but it had quickly become clear that the company was not interested in talks.
The company had claimed ignorance of local industrial relations procedures and national agreements, Mr O'Connell said, even though it had operated in Ireland since 1988. After the strike began it had set up a staff association and paid arrears of PCW increases to non striking staff.
A striker, Ms Martina Ryan, said that staff at the Cork shop were required to unload lorries, wash toilets "and do far more work than your average shop assistant". One member of staff in her 50s had to carry a seven foot children's slide up two storeys after helping unload it.
She said the company had spent over £20,000 on publicity trying to break the strike, but public support for Mandate had held firm in the city.