After sending dismissal notices to seven employees who are currently on strike, Instant Upright, have done an about face and offered to withdraw the dismissals. Disgracefully, this is only on condition that if the workers agree to work out eight weeks’ notice dismantling equipment in the factory for shipment to Latvia; after which, the workers would be made redundant with the bare minimum statutory redundancy.
To add salt to the wound, Instant Upright are also withholding holiday pay owed to workers who had previously forgone annual leave to help the company fulfil contracts. This is blatant wage theft.
The choices facing the workers are stark: continue the dispute in the hope of winning four weeks redundancy with the threat of dismissal and no chance of minimum redundancy hanging over their heads; or accept the terms of the employer and return to work for eight weeks after which they would receive the bare minimum redundancy – a slap on the face for those with decades of service.
There is also the possibility that returning to work would see the workers forced to continue manufacturing some items so the company can fill outstanding and lucrative orders from the Far East.
It seems the workers are being forced into a corner where their only response would be a case for Constructive Dismissal; which would mean the workers resigning their jobs and taking long and tortuous legal action against the company with no guarantee of success. While their trade union Connect have offered the workers access to the union’s legal team, the company on the other hand, have access to utterly ruthless legal outfits and they have far deeper pockets than the workers or Connect.
Unlike some other disputes, this is not a case of a company going bust and attempting to liquidate stock. Instead a greedy tight fisted employer is trying to exploit the lower wages and conditions of Latvian workers at the expense of Irish workers to maximise his own profits: the true face of the European Union as one big bosses’ club. We can also see how, as always, the law works in the favour of the bosses over the workers. Not one of the Instant Upright bosses’ actions – no matter how rotten – are illegal. The workers, however, have to tread very carefully through a minefield of employment law with the threat of them and their union Connect being hit by injunctions. One step over the line and they are in breach of contract with no case against the company.
No worker should be surprised by this state of affairs. Not when you consider that the laws are drawn up by Right wing politicians in the interests of their friends in the business world. The same friends who will pull out the chair at the board table for any Minister leaving politics with a lucrative pension. These are the very same forces currently making a mess of the COVID-19 crisis and sending workers to their deaths to please business interests.
Militant Left have said previously that other bosses are closely watching this dispute. Now with the dispute at Premier Periclase in Drogheda, which mirrors the Instant Upright dispute in many ways, we can say this is definitely the case. There will be many, many similar disputes in the years ahead.
So, again, we call for the repeal of all anti-worker laws and a solidarity campaign from the trade union movement. The Instant Upright workers, through their union Connect, should initiate this campaign immediately. A rally in support of the workers should be called as a matter of urgency.
A united workers’ movement would be a force to be reckoned with, and help push back the anti-worker agendas of the Government and their pals in IBEC. At the very least the trade union movement must now organise to fight for the implementation of the Duffy- Cahill Report recommendations.
Militant Left ask that anyone who can, to visit the picket in Citywest and let the workers know they have huge support. This struggle has been going on for almost as long as the Debenhams’ strike and like the Debenhams’ strike, a victory for these workers would be a victory for all.