Thomas Cook workers released


Former staff of Thomas Cook who were arrested this morning after staging a sit-in at the company's shop in Grafton Street in breach of a High Court order have been released without penalty after they purged their contempt of court.

The protesters appeared before Mr Justice Michael Peart as a large number of supporters staged a protest outside the Four Courts.

Mr Justice Peart ordered that group of 27 workers, along with officials of the Transport Salaried Staff’s Association be released from custody. People before Profit Councillor Richard Boyd Barrett, Socialist Party Councillor Matthew Waine and PBP volunteer Sara O’Rourke were also freed.

The judge said that while the breach of the order was unlawful, given the undertakings the court received he decided it was not necessary to commit anyone to prison or to impose a fine.

Mr Justice Peart, acknowledging that the workers had felt badly treated by their employers, said that in a democratic society the rule of law “cannot be broken” or else there would be “anarchy.” However the Judge said that he was satisfied that the undertakings given by all parties was sufficient to purge their contempt.

Mr Justice Peart had ordered their arrest when they refused to obey a court order issued on Saturday for them to vacate the premises. The staff, who are in dispute with the company over a redundancy package, had ignored advice from lawyers and their union to comply with the terms of the  court order.

They were arrested at the Grafton Street premises before dawn this morning and taken to the Bridewell Garda station.

A Garda spokesman confirmed that a woman who is eight months pregnant was the first person to be removed from the branch. She was admitted to the Coombe hospital on the advice of a doctor, where she later gave birth to a girl named Chelsea.

The ex-staff occupied the premises after being told by management on Friday afternoon that the shop would be shut immediately as a result of actions taken by the TSSA which included a public protest against the terms of a redundancy deal offered to 77 Thomas Cook staff.

The shop and another, Direct Holidays, a subsidiary in Talbot Street, were due to shut on September 6th, but the closure date for the Grafton Street branch was brought forward.

The staff were holding out for a redundancy deal which would give them eight weeks per year of service. The company is currently offering five weeks per year of service.

The former workers claim that Thomas Cook is a hugely profitable company which paid its chief executive £7 million last year and can afford an enhanced redundancy deal.

Unite - the union whose members staged a seven week occupation at Waterford Crystal earlier this year - called this morning’s removal of workers from the Thomas Cook store as “a dark stain on the history of industrial relations in Ireland.”

“These are ordinary working people standing up for their rights”, said Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly. “They have a right to be treated with respect and for their employer to hold to a standard of engagement that in this case has merely been cast aside.