From Socialist Voice, February 2006

Dunne’s Stores reach a new low

A leading Irish retailer, Dunne’s Stores, has unleashed a clamour of support for a sacked worker, Joanne Delaney. Thousands of people—trade union activists, politicians, or ordinary people in the street—have expressed their horror and disgust at this latest development in the long-running saga of deplorable anti-union tactics and exploits by Dunne’s Stores.
    Joanne, a shop steward for Mandate—the union for Ireland’s retail and bar workers—was sacked from her job as a sales assistant in the Dunne’s Stores branch in the Ashleaf Centre, Crumlin, Dublin, for “a breach of the company’s dress code.” This breach was wearing her union badge on her uniform while at work; but, despite numerous attempts by Joanne and her union officials, the company has not identified exactly where it states in their dress code that the wearing of badges is prohibited.
    Similarly, Mandate had sought to represent their member and shop steward at a disciplinary hearing convened by the company on 21 October, but, because Joanne was accompanied by her union representative, this meeting was cancelled. On 29 November she received a letter from her employer informing her that she had been dismissed.
    While this unfortunate and unsavoury event has shocked the thousands who have declared their support for Joanne, Mandate is not surprised at this latest low point in the company’s petty and vindictive campaign against its members and representatives. There has been a long-running saga of poor industrial relations between the company and the union, in which Dunne’s Stores have repeatedly and consistently ignored the well-tested and proven industrial relations machinery and its many codes of practice on numerous employment issues—most notably, disciplinary procedures.
    Those politicians who are demonstrating their admirable declarations of support by ensuring that this issue reaches the highest echelons of their parliaments—such as Finian McGrath TD (independent), Sharon Hodgson MP (British Labour Party), and Colin Fox MSP (Scottish Socialist Party), who have submitted motions of support for Joanne—should also appreciate that this employer, a major participant on the employers’ side in social partnership, is determined to smash any trade union activity within its work-places.
    Dunne’s Stores, by this most recent action, have sent a clear and unequivocal signal to its work force that union membership and its representative role and responsibilities will not be tolerated; and while there has been considerable negative publicity around this particular case, this company—whose anti-union strategies are redolent of employers’ tactics at the beginning of the last century—will not and do not care. Their past record proves this!
    While the support is heartening for both Joanne and the union, it only serves to demonstrate that the only way this company can be “brought to heel” is by Dunne’s work force recognising their collective strength and clout and exercising that dynamic to remove the real, tangible fear factor in their work environment. Therein lies the difficulty—which, I hasten to add, is reflected in many private-sector work-places.
    The only guarantee in doing nothing is that nothing will change . . . with Dunne’s Stores anyway!


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