Management at Irish Cement has expressed disappointment at the escalation of industrial action at its two locations at Platin in County Meath and Castlemungret in County Limerick which has now entered its third week.
Strike action began on 3 April following a decision to take industrial action by the Irish Cement Group of Unions which includes SIPTU, TEEU and Unite. Irish Cement staff are calling on the company to honour a Labour Court recommendation relating to the payment of outstanding monies to its employees.
In a statement, Irish Cement management said it has repeatedly attempted to engage with unions on the urgent need for reductions in pay rates which include bonuses reflecting peak output levels. “Pay rates have remained unchanged since 2008 and currently are 60 per cent higher than the average industrial wage for unionised staff, despite the unprecedented deterioration in the Irish construction sector which now operates at 20% of the 2007 peak output,” the company said in a statement.
Management has said it is: “deeply disappointed that protracted attempts at meaningful dialogue on this issue with the group of unions have failed, including an intervention by the Labour Court in the past week. The Labour Court suggested a pay cut of 6% which was subsequently rejected by union ballot," the statement added.
It also condemns as “irresponsible” a series of disruptive work-to-rule actions by unionised workers in recent weeks “which have systematically rendered both plants inoperable and attempted to undermine supplies of cement to customers.”
The company has said that pay rates are unsustainable and are impacting negatively on its competitiveness in the markets in which it operates and also on its capacity to export. “Management continues to urge unionised staff through their representatives to commence meaningful engagement with the company so as to achieve the long overdue and necessary reductions required in remuneration as a matter of priority,” the statement added.
Yesterday, Inside Ireland quoted secretary of the Irish Cement Group of Unions, Karan O’Loughlin, as saying: “Earlier this year the Labour Court made a recommendation that the company must pay monies which are outstanding to its employees which amount to between €5500 to €9500 per worker.
“The Labour Court has recommended that Irish Cement Ltd immediately pay the monies it owes the workers but the company is insisting that a pay cut of between 15% and 18% is implemented first. Acceptance of such a pay cut does not form part of the Labour Court recommendation.
“This is the first strike action at Irish Cement in over three decades. Irish Cement workers have always attempted to maintain good industrial relations with management.
“However, they are steadfast in their resolve to continue this industrial action until this highly profitable company commits to paying them what they are owed without any prior conditions.”