From Socialist Voice, February 2011

Another local industry closes

The loss of 124 jobs at Gallagher’s Bakery in Ardara, Co. Donegal, has been well reported, initially in the national media and since then in the local Donegal media.
     A central theme that appears to run through all the recent and current commentary on this economic disaster for the Ardara area is not only the obvious impact it has on the local economy and the workers and their families but the incredible and meaningless public pity for the Gallagher family itself.
     A number of years ago the very successful Gallagher’s bakery business was bought out by IAWS—now a subsidiary of the European giant Aryzta. At that time there were whispers that Declan Gallagher, owner of the company, sold 49 per cent of this local jewel for its then worth, which was €40 million. He remained as managing director, drawing a lucrative salary, and lived locally.
     On the day that 124 job losses were announced Declan Gallagher and his business compadres had leaked word to the media before a hastily called employees’ meeting, where he read from a prepared script, after which he left the building, refusing to listen to, let alone answer, any of the many questions and concerns of his employees.
     For the past two years it has been widely known that these jobs were to be moved to a specifically built plant in Dublin. But despite the writing on the wall, and the fact that the business was booming, many of the workers believed that the local involvement of the Gallagher family would protect them.
     For the last few years a large proportion of this work force unfortunately failed to listen to the advice that they should unionise, to protect not only their terms and conditions and rates of pay but their very livelihood. Some were frightened off by the idea of collective solidarity and the potential industrial unrest that might be unleashed in seeking work-place recognition. Others again—and there were many—unfortunately just felt they didn’t need a union.
     Nevertheless, a noticeable block of workers did join SIPTU and have sought representative recognition with the employer. This so far has been refused, and a Labour Court hearing is pending, as the workers scramble for some sort of comfort regarding the loss of their jobs, while at the same time Gallaghers are refusing to recognise any of their workers’ right to be represented by a union.
     The one consolation is that the Gallagher family’s strong Fianna Fáil connection, and the fact that the transfer of this part of the business to Dublin has occurred during an election campaign, has witnessed that party’s politicians rushing to the employer’s door to try not only to save the remaining fifty or so jobs but to get a redundancy package above the statutory minimum.
     The same politicians then rush to the media, reporting the incredible success of their representations, despite knowing all too well that the Gallagher family’s chase of the dollar sounded the death knell for a vibrant and viable local business that was the pride of its community for more than four decades.
     The recent announcement that the fifty or so jobs belonging to Gallagher’s fresh-food business have been saved—apparently bought back by Declan Gallagher himself—has rightly been welcomed by the local population and their representatives. But before everyone gives dewy-eyed thanks for this small bit of news, it should be remembered that Gallaghers effectually terminated the 124 jobs in the first place when they sold the business to the transnational Aryzta, which also benefited from huge injections of grant aid from Údarás na Gaeltachta.
     But then, capitalists do what capitalists do. Now is the time for workers to do what workers should do!

Pat “the Cope” Gallagher MEP knows what side his bread is buttered on. At a recent meeting in Donegal South-West he refused point blank to sign a petition in support of the 124 workers in Gallagher’s Bakery who recently lost their jobs.
     When asked why he wouldn’t sign the petition he cited a “conflict of interest,” because he was participating in very sensitive negotiations to save the remaining fifty jobs—despite the fact that he was told that no-one was speaking to those workers who had already lost their jobs, nor was the employer affording them trade union representation.

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