From Socialist Voice, March 2010

Sligo night-club the envy of Irish business

Members of Mandate in the renowned Envy Niteclub in Sligo are involved in a bitter dispute with their employer, Rowan Heath Ltd, owned by the socialite Mezzalie McGarry, which has now gone into liquidation. Rowan Heath has blatantly flouted employment law, leading to this very public spat, which appears to have no way of being resolved.
     In September 2009 Rowan Heath Ltd unilaterally put its employees on JLC rates, thus slashing their wages—in some instances by up to 45 per cent—unilaterally reduced their working hours, which further affected their wages, and before imposing the JLC rates and conditions failed to pay any premium pay for working unsocial hours, working on Sundays or on public holidays.
     If that wasn’t enough, the employer then, at the turn of the year, notified the workers that there would be no work for them for the foreseeable future.
     On all occasions the employer refused to engage with Mandate, which had no alternative other than to ballot the members for industrial action, in which it received close on an overwhelming 90 per cent support.
     Following notification to the employer of the industrial action, Mezzalie McGarry immediately applied for the liquidation of the company. The company refused to notify the employees of this and furthermore of the creditors’ meeting on Monday 22 February. Through word of mouth, the media and the internet Mandate became aware of the meeting and so ensured a very strong workers’ presence.
     Despite the company acknowledging that the workers were creditors and allowing them to attend the meeting as such, the Mandate representative was refused entry—though all creditors when signing in could sign in also a representative. Other creditors were also allowed to ask questions at the meeting on their behalf.
     At the meeting, none of the workers’ queries regarding their work-place issues and concerns were answered; and when it came to voting on the employer’s proposed liquidator, it was announced that the workers’ votes would not be counted, as they were not creditors—despite the fact that they had been signed in as such, and the vote had been put to the floor and overwhelmingly rejected. The vote was then conducted again, and the employer’s proposed liquidation was passed.
     Obviously this raises serious concerns about the brazen attitude of many employers to their workers and their entitlements. Similarly, it demonstrates that employment law is in essence tokenistic, as the capitalist class rallies around to drive a coach and horses through workers’ rights and entitlements, further demonstrating the weakness and futility of the social-democratic system’s attempts to “balance” labour and capital.
     When all is said and done, this opportunistic employer—symptomatic of the present strategy of the capitalist class—will, by the powers of this land, remain unscathed as it washes its hands of its responsibilities to its workers.
     Despite all that has happened, the workers have regrouped and have concentrated their efforts on bringing their case to the wider Sligo public.
     Attempts to raise their struggle through the media have on occasion been blocked by the employer’s threats to withdraw advertising—another example of the capitalist class circling its wagons; but the simple action of leafleting the socialising Sligo public, often in the early hours of the morning, is taking its toll on the owner, as many potential patrons, when becoming aware of the workers’ struggle, refuse to enter the owner’s other night-club, the Velvet Room.
     Mandate has also set up a Facebook campaign. Lend your support if you can by visiting, and pass it on to your friends.

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