Limerick protestors hope for New Year breakthrough

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

FORMER sports centre workers who have been protesting for 13 weeks over non-payment of redundancy hope to secure a breakthrough in the New Year.

FORMER sports centre workers who have been protesting for 13 weeks over non-payment of redundancy hope to secure a breakthrough in the New Year.

At the start and end of each school day, eight staff of the now-closed St Enda’s Sports Complex have been staging a demonstration in a bid to raise awareness.

Some 27 staff lost their jobs when St Enda’s Sports Complex closed in February 2011.

It also meant the southside lost its last public swimming pool.

Unhappy at getting only statutory redundancy, the staff, supported by SIPTU, appealed to the Labour Court which recommended they get four weeks pay for each year of service.

With the Labour Court’s ruling not legally binding, the Department of Education has so far not paid up, despite pressure from opposition politicians.

And desperate workers are now 13 weeks into a protest outside the neighbouring school - also facing closure - in a bid to get the money they are owed.

It looks like persistence is likely to pay off for the workers, with staff spokesman Ray Healy saying: “The union has been working very hard behind the scenes. We would be very hopeful this wold be resolved in the New Year.”

He says the eight members of SIPTU are due a total of €100,000.

Mr Healy has thanked several parties for their support, including Liam Burke, the manager of the local Amber garage, who has been distributing tea and sandwiches some days.

“It is very difficult. Financially, it has been very difficult. We all have families to feed,” he explained.

He admits the workers are lucky because they have a strong family unit behind them.

“But a lot of it is also down to our colleagues - they have been out here in all weathers,” he added.

Despite meetings with Education Minister Ruairi Quinn throughout last year, no answer has yet been forthcoming from the department - which closed the centre on health and safety grounds.

“We were treated very shabbily from day one really. We feel let down by everyone, including the educational system. We were a part of the school. We are the working class of this country, and all we want is a bit of justice,” he concluded, vowing they would be back on the picket line when the school returns on January 7.