Irish Cement strike continues into fifth week

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

AS THOUSANDS of people enjoyed the Riverfest celebrations in Limerick at the weekend, 50 staff at Irish Cement maintained their picket over a 24-hour basis at the plant in Castlemungret.

AS THOUSANDS of people enjoyed the Riverfest celebrations in Limerick at the weekend, 50 staff at Irish Cement maintained their picket over a 24-hour basis at the plant in Castlemungret.

Dozens of workers, fighting to receive increments due to them, maintained their picket over the weekend nights, and braved the elements during the ‘graveyard’ shifts from 11pm-3am and around the clock.

The strike has now entered its fifth week, as 100 employees between its Limerick and Louth plants seek increments due to them, which vary from €5,500 to €9,500 per worker.

Both IBEC and ICTU have begun facilitating talks with staff and management under an independent chairman.

“It is in both parties’ interest that an early resolution of the dispute is found relating to the issues in dispute to address the cost base of the company and to protect the maximum number of sustainable jobs. This will require full cooperation and the meaningful engagement of the parties without preconditions to find an early resolution,” said the unions.

SIPTU last week accused the management of Irish Cement of attempting to “starve people to go back to work”, as the strikers are surviving on strike pay of between €125 to €200 per week. Staff locally say they are now attempting to freeze their mortgages payments with the banks, due to an inability to pay. The Labour Court recommending five months ago that the increments be paid, however, the company has refused to do so, saying that staff must first accept a wage cut of up to 23%.

Irish Cement is a subsidiary of CRH, one of the world’s leading building materials companies.

This Wednesday, staff plan to protest outside the CRH AGM in Dublin and are calling on shareholders to oppose the re-election of directors on the basis of the bonuses they accrue, and the current refusal to pay monies owed to the workers. “You can’t say you need to be more competitive on one hand, and then on the other fork out €1m for one board member,” said Karan O’Loughlin, SIPTU.