Flagship Dunnes Stores outlet in Cornelscourt almost deserted

Many shoppers persuaded by strikers to take their custom elsewhere

 Strikers  picketing outside Dunnes Stores in Cornelscourt,  south Dublin. Photograph:  Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Strikers picketing outside Dunnes Stores in Cornelscourt, south Dublin. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

 

Dunnes Stores outlets remained quiet as striking workers placed pickets outside more than 100 branches across the State.

While some shoppers passed pickets, many were persuaded by strikers to take their custom elsewhere.

At Cornelscourt, Dublin, regarded as a flagship outlet, just five tills were manned in an almost deserted grocery department at 11.30am. Some 14 tills lay idle as just four customers queued to pay.

The off-licence, where two workers stood behind the counter, had no customers. The restaurant, with 37 tables, had three customers – a woman and young child – and a male manager. The car park outside was about a quarter full.

The trade union Mandate placed the largest picket in the State on this branch in south Dublin, with almost 120 members protesting at the centre’s four entrances between 6am and 10pm, in four-hour shifts. Strikers on low-hour contracts were reluctant to speak to media.

However, Suzanne Tallant, who has worked in the grocery department for 15 years and has a set-hours contract, said she was striking because it was important “stronger workers support the weaker ones”.

Taking a stand

As cars entered the car park, picketers called on drivers to “please don’t pass the picket”.

During the morning gardaí from Cabinteely arrived, saying they had been called by Dunnes Stores management alleging picketers were “harassing customers”. Two gardaí spoke to the strikers, asking them not to block the car park entrances, though at no point did it appear motorists were prevented from entering.

One of the gardaí told the strikers: “Sure you know I support you, you’ve got a thumbs up from me”, showing a thumbs up sign.

A resident from adjacent houses visited the picket to say strikers could use “the facilities” if they needed.

Branches in Dublin city centre were also quiet. At the St Stephen’s Green Centre, one till was manned on the ground floor and three in the large groceries department. At lunchtime the supermarket was almost deserted. A manager agreed it was “quieter than normal”, adding, “it’s to be expected”.

Counting their hours

“I see people on flexi-contracts, and they are counting their hours week to week, working out whether they can afford this bill one week and that bill next. If they complain, management cut their hours. They use their power against workers, all to suit a multimillion-euro company.”

While some shoppers – “especially people here on holidays” – were passing the picket, many were deciding not to, Monaghan said. One young woman on her way in was handed a “Decency for Dunnes Workers” leaflet and asked to “respect the workers”. She nodded and left.

On nearby South Great George’s Street, in a smaller branch selling only groceries, 26 members of staff and fewer customers could be counted shortly before 1pm. Five workers stood behind the normally busy deli counter, which had no customers.

Outside, members of the Impact trade union and the Irish Bank Officials Association were supporting the picketers.

Kathrina Long, a member of the public, was on her way in to get her lunch but decided not to when she saw the picket.

“I know Dunnes make billions in profits so I do feel bad for the workers. I used to work in Dunnes, and the management is all about hours and money and time. It’s not the nicest place to be a worker, so I would support them trying to make conditions better.”