FOR the first time in more than 40 years, production has stopped at the Irish Cement factory in Mungret as 65 front-line staff went on strike over pay.
All day yesterday, staff at the plant on the outskirts of the city halted production of cement after it was alleged Irish Cement refused to pay wage increments due to staff.
The strike – backed by SIPTU, the TEEU Union and Unite – 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 strikes over pay and conditions.
SIPTU shop steward Willie O’Shaughnessy, who has worked for Irish Cement for 15 years, said they are seeking the implementation of a Labour Court recommendation on the payment of wages owed since last year.
The firm was also asked to prove that it was loss making, and therefore unable to pay the wages.
“We had an independent assessor go in and look at the company’s books, and he found the company has been profitable since the recession started,” Mr O’Shaughnessy said, adding it was still exporting cement to Belgium and Swansea.
He added that they had co-operated with the company when it sought to reduce its headcount, saying: “All we are looking for the company to do is to abide by a Labour Court recommendation. We don’t want anything extra off the company. We have had no problem reducing our numbers, because we know the financial situation the country is in.”
In response, Irish Cement “condemned as irresponsible” the action, and said pay rates are currently 60 per cent higher than the average industrial wage for unionised staff.
*For a full version of this story see today’s Limerick Leader tabloid edition