Irish Ferries vessel diverts from Rosslare Port


Irish Ferries vessel the MV Normandyhas been diverted from Rosslare Port where it was due to dock this afternoon.

Irish Ferries had called on the port operators in Rosslare Harbour to honour their contract to handle the  MV Normandyafter Siptu workers at the port said they would refuse to handle the vessel in solidarity with Irish Ferries workers.

The Normandy, which is carrying 113 passengers and dozens of freight lorries, left Cherbourg last night and was scheduled to reach the Rosslare at around 4.30pm.

There had earlier been suggestions from union Siptu that the firm, which is involved in a dispute with employees over attempts to replace 550 seafarers with cheaper Eastern European labour, might try to divert the vessel to Cork.

However, a spokesman for the company said it was likely to travel instead to Dublin, arriving at the capital's port late tonight.

The spokesman said he hoped Irish Ferries would not have the same problem with staff at Dublin port, where the company has its own berth.

He added that a member of the crew on the MV Normandyneeded medical attention before the ship reached Rosslare, following an accident onboard.

Meanwhile, deck officers on board the Isle of Inishmore took control of the wheel house on the ship. Elsewhere on board, four ships' officers are continuing to barricade themselves into the control room, while crews of the Jonathan Swift in Dublin and the Ulysses in Holyhead have also prevented their ships from sailing.

Speaking in Cork this morning, the Taoiseach repeated his call on Irish Ferries to accept Labour Court proposals on the matter and stated his concern at the implications for the partnership agreement.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern labelled the company's actions - which has seen them bring foreign workers on to the three ships accompanied by security personnel - as ham-fisted.

Despite assurances from SIPTU they would still participate in upcoming social partnership talks, the Taoiseach warned the situation would affect the partnership process.

Mr Ahern said: "The whole dispute has had implications for the partnership process as it's totally outside the way we do business.

"I find it unbelievable that people would do this.

Management at the company yesterday denied newspaper reports that it considered the use of tear gas on crew members. A report in yesterday's Irish Independentsuggested the option was raised at a meeting as one of a range of extreme measures.

Irish Ferries issued a statement this morning rejecting "in the strongest possible terms" the claim .

Earlier, trade union representatives belonging to the International Transport Workers' Federation claimed a member of the British seafarers' union, NUMAST, was refused permission to board the Irish Ferries vessel, Ulysses.

SIPTU, of which the workers are members, has called for a national day of protest with rallies across the country next Friday, while the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said it would be discussing the issue at a special meeting on Tuesday.

Private sector trade union leaders representing over 390,000 workers are to meet at the Teacher's Club, Parnell Square, Dublin, tomorrow at 6pm to review the Irish Ferries dispute and discuss strategy in the post-Sustaining Progress scenario that is now emerging.

The unions are all affiliated to the Private Sector Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. They include: AMICUS, the ATGWU, BATU, CWU, IBOA, IMPACT, Mandate, the NUJ, SIPTU and the TEEU.

The secretary of the Private Sector Committee, Eamon Devoy of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union said today that, "If Irish unions have to defend workers on their own they will do so, as we have had to do so often in the past. We will not be found wanting."