Limerick cement workers protest at CRH’s AGM

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

WORKERS with Irish Cement in Limerick brought their protest to Dublin again this week, as their official strike is now in its fifth week.

WORKERS with Irish Cement in Limerick brought their protest to Dublin again this week, as their official strike is now in its fifth week.

Pickets were placed at a meeting of Irish Cement’s parent company CRH as they held their annual general meeting in the Royal Marine hotel in Dun Laoghaire.

The 45 workers at the Mungret plant along with their colleagues in Platin, county Louth, stopped work, following a work to rule, on April 3 in a row over payments owed to them following a Labour Court recommendation in December last.

Christy McQuillian, from SIPTU, says shareholders of CRH, one of the world’s leading building materials companies, have to be made aware what’s happening.

“The resolve of the workers has to be out there in people’s minds. These workers want to get back to work. They do a good job. It’s a question of what’s owed should be paid,” he said.

The staff at the Castlemungret plant are owed between €5,500 and €9,500 each in increments, with the Labour Court recommending five months ago that the sum be paid.

However, the company has refused to do so, saying that staff must first accept a wage cut of up to 23%, which has been described as “savage” by one of the unions representing workers.

At the AGM this Wednesday, workers called on shareholders to oppose the re-election of directors on the basis of the size 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, regional organiser of SIPTU, referring to the salaries and pensions of the company’s most senior members.

“They going to try and starve these people back to work. Nearly 100 years after the 1913 Lockout some employers are still of the frame of mind that they can beat you by starving you back to work and that’s just not acceptable. They need to come back to the table under the heading of the Labour Court recommendation,” said Ms O’Loughlin.

The company said there is an “urgent need for reductions in pay rates”, and expressed disappointment that attempts to hold meaningful discussions have failed.

Staff locally say they are now attempting to freeze their mortgages payments with the banks, as they are living on strike pay of between €125-€200 per week.

Over 100 workers are employed at the two production plants affected by the strike action.