Workplace Relations Commission intervenes in dispute at Kerry Group

 'Serious concerns regarding potential job losses' – Siptu organiser

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Workplace Relations Commission intervenes in dispute at Kerry Group

At Tuesday’s work stoppage, Cllr Lisa Marie Sheehy said: ‘This is not about pay, this is simply about respect’ Picture: Michael Cowhey

SIPTU has called on Kerry Group to accept an invitation to attend a hearing of the Labour Court concerning the ongoing dispute at the company’s Charleville operation.

On Tuesday evening, Siptu organiser, Terry Bryan, said: “The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) formally intervened in the trade dispute at the Kerry Group plants in Charleville. The intervention is being made in light of serious concerns regarding potential job losses.”

The WRC being cognisant of the number of conciliation conferences that have previously been held regarding this dispute is referring the matter directly to the Labour Court for an urgent hearing, he said.

“Siptu has accepted the invitation and is calling on the company to confirm its agreement to attend the Labour Court. This dispute now has the potential to be resolved if management accepts this invitation, which is in line with the agreed dispute resolution procedures at the company,” said Mr Bryan

The dispute at the plant in Charleville has already resulted in a series of 24-hour work stoppages in recent weeks, including this Tuesday. Three more are planned on February 17,  21 and 24. 

Siptu says the dispute results from a management refusal to attend the WRC to discuss proposed changes to workers’ terms and conditions of employment. Items in dispute include proposed changes to shift patterns and terms, job rotation and appointments.

The dispute concerns 68 employees in the Cheestrings department but all Siptu employees have come out in support of their colleagues.

Michael McCarthy, former Kerry employee for 18 years and union representative, lent his backing on Tuesday.

“They are going to keep fighting because they have to. If they don’t make a stand now it is their children who will suffer,” said Mr McCarthy.

A spokesperson for Kerry said: “It is quite serious in terms of securing the future viability of production in the Cheestrings department. We are endeavouring to meet our customers requirements – we have broadened our market reach into eight European countries. 

"While this situation continues we are obviously jeopardising the future of that business. Management are quite prepared to engage immediately in positive discussions to find a solution to this situation providing that positive engagement is forthcoming from employee representatives.”

Sinn Fein’s ClLr Lisa Marie Sheehy and Senator Paul Gavan visited Charleville on Tuesday.

“We met many workers on the picket line and in my eyes they are currently being treated with disrespect by the management. We expressed our support and solidarity for the workers on strike,” said Cllr Sheehy.

Deputy Niall Collins said it is incumbent on Kerry to proactively engage with the workers and “in my view they should attend the Labour Court without preconditions”.