Dunnes dispute: ‘When my hours are down, we’re just scraping by’

Two Dunnes Stores workers say why they will be on the pickets outside shops today

Michael Meegan of Mandate Trade Union explains why staff of Dunnes Stores have decided to strike and picket around the country. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Muireann Dalton has worked in the bakery department of Dunnes Stores in Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow, for three years.

She has to meet her mortgage provider every six months to show her payslips.

Married with three children – aged 23, 20 and 13 and who all still live at home – she says her pay can fluctuate from €350 down to €240 per week.

Ms Dalton, like most of her colleagues, has a contract guaranteeing her between 15 and 37½ hours per week.

“So some weeks you might get 24 hours, the next 35 and it can go down to 15 hours. A difference of 10 hours in a week is €100.

“When my hours are down, we are just scraping by. You don’t know until a week before what hours you’ll have the next week. It is very stressful.”

Contracts

“We’re lucky, we have our mortgage, but you see young ones coming in, getting engaged, wanting to make plans but they’ll never get mortgages with these contracts,” she said.

“As it is, I have to meet my mortgage provider every six months, go through my payslips – prove that we will actually be able to pay the mortgage.”

Asked why she doesn’t leave and work somewhere else, she says: “It’s difficult because anywhere else will start you on a six-month probation and then you could be dropped and left with nothing.

“I love my job, love my colleagues. The customers are great. But there is no loyalty from Dunnes.

“You work hard and you think you’ll get the hours but you can be cut to almost nothing and it’s not right.”

Laura – who does not want her name used for fear of being “victimised” by management – has been with the company for 13 years. She works on the tills in a south Dublin branch.

Her partner also works for Dunnes. Her hours are generally about 30 to 35 a week but can fall to fewer than 25. His can be as low as 15.

She says when she was on maternity leave two years ago, and receiving only maternity benefit of €230 per week, her partner was cut to 15 hours, bringing in less than €200.

“After we’d paid rent and bills, some weeks we had no money for food.

Noodles

She applied for a loan last year to do some home decorating. “They said our hours couldn’t be depended on, so we were turned down.”

Both women will be on picket lines with their colleagues today and both are saying that what they want are “secure hours”.

“We’re not asking for much,” says Laura, “just what most workers have, to be able to make plans, have a life.

“We have to take a stand now. If we don’t we may as well give up.”

Dunnes Stores representatives provided no comment on these interviews.