Alleged intimidation by Dunnes sparks call for legislation

Mandate calls on Minister to bring forward law paving way for collective bargaining

Mandate wrote to Minister of State for Jobs Ged Nash on Wednesday as reports came in “from all over the country” of Dunnes management moving to “target” workers who had participated in last week’s strike. Photograph: The Irish Times

Mandate wrote to Minister of State for Jobs Ged Nash on Wednesday as reports came in “from all over the country” of Dunnes management moving to “target” workers who had participated in last week’s strike. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

The Mandate trade union has written to the Minister of State for Jobs Ged Nash describing alleged intimidation by Dunnes Stores management of strikers as “proof if ever it was needed” of the urgent need for collective bargaining legislation.

The union is calling for anti-victimisation provisions and for the transposition into Irish law of the EU directive on part-time work which would protect workers from the worst effects of low-hour contracts.

Mandate assistant general secretary Gerry Light wrote to the Minister last night as reports came in “from all over the country” of Dunnes management moving to “target” workers who had participated in last week’s strike.

The union says workers who were on pickets last Thursday had been called into meetings with management since Friday and have had hours reduced, have been moved from long-held positions and have had had established shift patterns changed.

Mr Light said the union had heard from managers anonymously, saying they had been ordered by more senior managers to compile lists of everyone who had been on pickets.

Robust law

In a letter to Mr Nash, he said it was all “proof if ever it was needed that forthcoming legislation on collective bargaining was absolutely necessary and it must be made as robust as the Government can possibly make it”.

More than 5,000 Dunnes Stores workers staged the stoppage, placing pickets on more than 100 Dunnes branches – making it the biggest private sector strike in recent years.

The dispute centres on the company’s use of low-hour contracts, where a majority of its workers are guaranteed between 15 and 37½ hours a week, but with no certainty week-to-week of the hours they will work.

The company has not engaged with the union.

The strike had been a “last resort”, said Mr Light. “Now their employer is blatantly targeting people with the hope of intimidating their own loyal staff and turning them away from future trade union activities.”

Dunnes Stores did not provide a response to these allegations on Wednesday evening.