Union officials deny harassing staff in port strike

 

SIPTU, IRISH Congress of Trade Unions officials and employees at a company involved in a strike at Dublin port have denied they have harassed or intimidated staff who are continuing to work.

Earlier this week Marine Terminals Limited secured an interim injunction preventing the unions, several of their officials and a number of former and current employees, from harassing staff after there had been an “unlawful escalation” of the strike.

At the High Court yesterday, the defendants, while accepting that there has been “an escalated progression of the dispute”, and that other workers have been described as “scabs”, denied they have engaged in unlawful industrial action. They denied the term “scab” has been used in a threatening or intimidating manner.

Since early July, about 50 port operatives at Marine Terminals, who are members of Siptu, have been involved in a dispute with the firm over redundancies and changes to workers’ terms and conditions.

On Tuesday, Mr Justice Kevin Feeney granted Marine Terminals an interim injunction against Siptu, Ictu and 10 named individuals. Those individuals include Ictu assistant general secretary Peter Bunting, Siptu officials Oliver McDonagh and Christy McQuillan, and the union’s general secretary Joe O’Flynn.

Ken Fleming, an agent of the International Transport Workers Federation, and five current and former employees of the company were also named.

In its action, the company claims the defendants tried to “coerce and intimidate” employees who were not on strike into stopping work by calling them scabs and engaging in a “name and shame” campaign.

It claimed a group of protesters travelled to Athy in Co Kildare where some of the personnel who are continuing to work at Marine Terminals Ltd live, and put up posters and distributed fliers identifying them.

Marcus Dowling, for the company, said the action against workers, who are also Siptu members, was a breach of their constitutional right to earn a living.

During yesterday’s hearing to have the injunction made permanent until the full hearing of the action, the defendants, represented by Richard Kean SC, denied any wrongdoing.

In affidavits to the court, the union officials said they had not suggested, encouraged, or assisted in the distribution of the fliers distributed in Athy.

Two of the striking workers, James and Nigel Loughman, admitted putting up posters in Athy, on August 27th last.

In his affidavit, James Loughman of Templeroan Avenue, Dublin 16, said he had not been encouraged or directed to do so by union officials.

It was stated that it was an expression of his constitutional rights to express his opinion. Nigel Loughman, Shanagarry, Miltown, Dublin 6, the court heard, also admitted putting up the posters.

The court heard that the fliers, with a photograph of a Marine Terminals employee who continued to work, were posted around that person’s home town.

The flier contained the words “Wanted for Crimes Against Irish Workers,” and the names of a number of other employees who have continued to work.

Mr Justice Feeney adjourned the case to next Thursday. The interim injunction is to remain in place until then.