A LEADING Siptu official has slated Fine Gael councillors for voting against a motion calling on Pallas Foods to engage with union members in the company in a bid to save as many jobs as possible in West Limerick.
But, in a late-running session of Limerick City and County Council last week, the motion, from Sinn Féin’s Cllr Seamus Browne, was passed by 15 votes to six.
In a statement issued after the vote was taken, Siptu lead organiser, Pat Condon said: “We are disappointed that local councillors from Fine Gael did not see fit to support the request. I would have thought that all councillors should be working to maintain and protect jobs in the West Limerick area.”
He commended Sinn Fein, Labour and AAA councillors as well as Independent John Gilligan for their stance but added: “It’s also disappointing to note that a number of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail councillors did not bother to attend the part of the council meeting dealing with this motion. I think that reflects very poorly on their commitment to the constituents who elected them.”
Last year, Pallas Foods announced 65 redundancies among its warehouse or “picker” staff at the Cisco-owned plant outside Newcastle West.
These redundancies were in addition to a number of agency or contract staff who had been let go.
The move sparked concern among Siptu members and non-union workers that further job losses were on the cards in Newcastle West while new jobs were about to come on stream at the company’s brand-new depot in Dublin.
A spokesman for Pallas Foods said the company was committed to Newcastle West but also said it was its right not to negotiate with the union.
On Monday, Cllr Browne (SF) asked councillors to back him when he called on the management of Pallas Foods “to engage with the union Siptu in order to ensure the retention of the maximum number of jobs” in West Limerick.
There had been a catalogue of job losses in the West Limerick area, Cllr Browne said.
“Now we have one of the last remaining large employers deciding to transfer 65 jobs to Dublin, and it has to be said that the circumstances around these job losses are quite disturbing.”
The only options put to employees in a six page document were either voluntary or compulsory redundancy, or redeployment to Dublin although Irish law does facilitate looking at various options to mitigate jobs losses, he argued.
Representatives had been “picked” by the company, he claimed and workers had been denied the chance to get advice from the Labour Relations Commission.
“I want this council to send a clear message to the management of Pallas Foods that it is not acceptable in this day and age to refuse to engage with the union of the workers’ choice in order to explore options to retain these jobs,” he said.
But Cllr Bill O’Donnell (FG) objected. While people have a right to association, people have an equal right to disassociate, he argued.
“It is up to employers to do what they wish. Maybe there is another side to it. From a purely legal point of view I would not be supporting the motion.”
Cllr Cian Prendiville (AAA) described the refusal by the company to negotiate as a “very worrying trend” and “William Martin Murphy-esque”.
There was no reply to a request for a comment from the company’s PR consultant.