April 2015        

Workers in struggle

After the magnificent one-day strike on the 2nd April by the workers employed by Dunne’s Stores, the management have embarked on a vindictive campaign to punish selected workers for going out on strike to protect and advance their rights.
     The workers’ trade union, Mandate, has received reports from members all over the country who have experienced dismissal or cuts in hours, changes in job roles, or changes in shift patterns.
     The assistant general secretary of Mandate, Gerry Light, said: “Now their employer is blatantly targeting people with the hope of intimidating their own loyal staff and turning them away from any future trade union activities . . . This behaviour by management in Dunne’s Stores is deplorable and despicable and must be condemned by everybody.”
     These actions by Dunne’s management are a clear attempt to intimidate workers and to frighten them away from striking to defend their rights and conditions. The bosses are attempting to assert their control and authority with these bullying tactics.
     Some workers have been dismissed, with one case taking place less than twenty-four hours after the strike. The local manager informed the worker that “the business isn’t there”—despite workers with less service (but who hadn’t been on strike) remaining in employment.
     Others have had cuts to their hours, meaning a significant reduction in income for workers and their families.
     Some employees who have worked in certain departments for more than twenty years have been moved to other departments, where they may potentially lose hours and suffer a change to their established working patterns in the future. Many workers have reported changes to regular shift patterns that make it difficult to manage family commitments.
     It is clear that Dunne’s management have been taken by surprise by the huge support shown to the workers by the public, and by the fact that trading on the day of the strike was almost negligible, thanks to the level of public support for the strike.
     The actions of Dunne’s management are a challenge not just to workers in Dunne’s Stores and their union but to all those unions that declared their solidarity with Mandate. It is also a challenge to the Tánaiste, Joan Burton—if we are not to assume that in joining the strikers on the picket line she was simply using it as a photo opportunity. She has within her grasp the means to improve the rights of workers. It’s time for all the talk and false promises to stop and for real, meaningful anti-victimisation laws and collective bargaining legislation to be introduced.
     This is a battle not just for the workers in Dunne’s Stores but one that must be supported by all workers. For we know from experience that the bosses use every opportunity to drive workers back and to reclaim improvements in conditions and wages that they have been forced to concede.

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