SIPTU representatives have strongly condemned what they perceive as a threat by management at the Premier Periclase plant in Drogheda to sack workers if they do not return to work.
Workers on strike at the plant, operated by RHI Magnesita, reacted angrily to last Friday’s development which saw the company deliver letters to the employees home by taxi. The letter stated that the collective agreement between parent company RHI Magnesita and workers at the Premier Periclase plant was ‘no longer valid’.
The company also added that they will not negotiate with employees who are on strike action.
The strike action began on Monday August 17 with 40 union members holding a picket line on the Boyne Road outside the plant at Stagreenan. The company proposes to lay off staff or put them on reduced hours while transferring work to non-union labour and retaining contractors on site.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, SIPTU’s TEAC Division Organiser Karan O’Loughlin confirmed all members of both SIPTU and United had rejected outright the proposals in the letter and returned the copies of the letter received.
“The continued intransigence of management, including a refusal to directly engage with union representatives or the Workplace Relations Commission, is responsible for the continuation of this dispute. The threatening letter which was sent to our members clearly indicates that management remain opposed to a just solution to the dispute.
“In response, members of SIPTU and Unite have decided to return their copies of this latter to management. This indicates their clear rejection of the company’s threats and its proposal that they return to work on unclear and undefined terms.”
Workers also say the company have suspended their sick pay scheme and their failure to meaningfully engage has lead to the strike action – originally proposed for July – going ahead. That strike was deferred after parties agreed to talks with the Workplace Relations Committee. However, union members feel the company are not participating in a meaningful way.
“The dispute has now bee escalated by management with a threat to sack workers if they do not concede to a demand to return to work on undefined changed terms and conditions,” SIPTU organiser Stephen Lewis said.
“This threat was relayed to our members in a letter delivered to their homes by taxi. The letter states the company will not engage directly with the works’ representatives. It further states that the company is considering the implementation of compulsory redundancies if workers do not return to work and accept undefined changes to their terms and conditions.
“The dispute at the plant began in June when management gave eight days notice that it intended to temporarily close the facility. This period left union representatives with insufficient time to enter into a consultation process with management to minimise the impact the shutdown would have on our members.”
Mr Lewis says workers have expressed serious concerns relating to issues such as pay, shift rates, pension payments and sick pay resulting from a temporary plant shutdown.