Industrial action at Limerick cement plant continues

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

AS industrial action at the Irish Cement plant enters its second week, a solution to the impasse seems unlikely.

AS industrial action at the Irish Cement plant enters its second week, a solution to the impasse seems unlikely.

Production at the massive cement plant on the edge of the city ground to a halt last Wednesday, with 65 workers walking out in a row over pay and conditions.

Unions have alleged Irish Cement had refused to pay workers wage increases to staff following a Labour Court recommendation.

But the company has hit back, saying the current pay rates are “unsustainable” and having a negative impact on its competitiveness.

Workers are believed to be owed between €5,500 and €9,500 each.

The picket line has been in place for a week, and according to SIPTU’s regional organiser Karan O’Loughlin, this will remain in place while the company refuse to pay the increments due.

The workers have won the support of local TD Willie O’Dea, who joined the picket last Thursday.

Ms O’Loughlin alleged that in order to service its customers, Irish Cement has been forced to import bags of cement from abroad.

“They have also sent a lot of their customers to Quinn Cement. They are going to a lot of effort to ensure no settlement is reached in the short term,” she claimed.

Ms O’Loughlin said she is not surprised the workers are still out on strike - rendering the plant inoperable for the first time since the 1970s.

“We anticipated it might take a while. There is a feeling the company is trying to take advantage of the current economic situation. Obviously, they have an interest in driving down pay, and using the climate as a backdrop to that, while ignoring the productivity of the savings they have made,” she added, “Workers are particularly annoyed at the hypocrisy of Irish Cement’s parent company, CRH, which at the same time as it is refusing to pay its employees monies they are owed is sanctioning massive pay rises for senior executives.”

The strike was organised after weeks of work to rule action failed to have an impact.

It is the first all out strike in the factory since the 1970s when there were two actions over pay and conditions.