Management at Premier Periclase in Drogheda refuse to come to the table and engage with union representatives on behalf of the workers at the magnesia plant, with separate talks currently being held at the Workplace Relations Commission.
Union representatives resumed talks at the Workplace Relations Commission on Tuesday this week, but while management have committed to sitting down with the WRC once again, they are doing so separately. They will meet with the WRC today (Thursday September 3).
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Imelda Munster has welcomed the resumption of talks at the Workplace Relations Commission regarding the ongoing dispute at Premier Periclase, with workers now on their third week on the picket line at the plant on the Boyne Road, outside the plant at Stagreenan.
However, the Deputy has called on management at the company to review their position not to attend talks with union representatives, saying that the matter will only be resolved if all parties commit to sitting around the table together at the WRC.
She wrote to Stefan Borgas, CEO of RHI Magnesita, last week urging him to ensure that management in Drogheda meet with union representatives of the workers on strike. In a response, he indicated that he has invited union representatives to talks with Drogheda management at RHI Magnesita
“I have responded to him asking him to ensure that Drogheda management attend talks at the WRC with union representatives, as both sides of the dispute need to attend talks together in order to resolve these matters.
“The WRC met on Tuesday with workers representatives, and RHI Magnesita management are due to meet the WRC separately today, Thursday. However they are still refusing to sit down with the unions,” Deputy Munster said.
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.
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 the first set of talks with the Workplace Relations Committee.
“I made it clear to Mr Borgas that the WRC is the appropriate avenue to mediate talks of this kind and I have asked him to ensure that both sides sit down together at the WRC, if not today, then early next week. Workers at Premier Periclase are in their third week on the picket lines this week. They want to get back to work and their employer must sit down with without delay.
“This is a matter of workers rights. We can’t sit back and allow union busting to take place. Any changes that the company wishes to make to the collective agreement must be negotiated and agreed between both parties.
“That companies feel they can bypass their workers in imposing unreasonable changes is a worrying development, and we can’t allow a race to the bottom to take place due to the pressures and changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
After visiting the picket line last Friday morning, Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd said he had spoken to Christoph Stock, Managing Director of RHI Magnesita Premier Periclase, as well as union representatives and Martin Walsh, Chairperson of Drogheda Council of Trades Unions.
“I will continue to engage with all parties to ensure an acceptable way forward for both management and workers,” he said.