Bakers pay battle while jobs in Cork and Shannon under threat

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Hovis Unite members on the picket line at the Belfast bakery fighting for a ten per cent pay rise ‘not the crumbs’ – they are on indefinite strike

NEARLY 130 workers are facing the sack at Shannon Airport while almost 200 others are to be laid off for three months without pay at Cork Airport, Aer Lingus announced on Tuesday.

Aer Lingus said it intends to permanently close its Shannon Airport cabin crew base where it employs 126 workers and also lay off 198 crew and ground staff in Cork Airport without pay from September to November this year.
The airline management confirmed its intention to proceed with mass sackings and lay-offs ahead of a meeting with trade union officials where it said that it intended to try to justify its plans by claiming that it has lost 103 million euros in the first three months of this year.
Aer Lingus said on Tuesday that the ‘cumulative impact’ of the crisis over the last 15 months requires immediate action.
These ‘include the permanent closure of the Aer Lingus cabin crew base at Shannon airport and the temporary closure of the Aer Lingus base at Cork airport from September until late November 2021,’ the airline added.
The 81 cabin crew at Shannon will be offered redundancy terms or, where feasible, transfer to Dublin Airport. Around 45 ground crew ‘will continue to be laid off’, said the airline.
Aer Lingus told Tánaiste Leo Varadkar that Shannon had been inefficient and out of line with the market for a significant period of time.
Trade union Fórsa confirmed that Aer Lingus had told it that cabin and ground crews at Cork Airport would be laid off without pay between September and November.
The airline’s staff are currently on 60 per cent of full pay.
Ashley Connolly, head of Fórsa’s Services and Enterprises Division, described the news as devastating.
‘Since Covid struck, we have fought hard to maintain links between staff and their employer so that Aer Lingus and other airlines are ready to bounce back once international travel starts to resume,’ she claimed.
‘The government needs to decide if the crisis in this vital industry is to be permanent or temporary.’
She added that only the State has the power to preserve international links that support hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Connolly urged the government to put in place a ‘bespoke aviation income support scheme to underpin employment and maintain the relationship between employers and employees over what is likely to be a significant period of recovery’.
Fórsa General Secretary Kevin Callinan said the government’s response to the aviation crisis has been, and continues to be, ‘tardy and timid compared to the challenges we face. We are tired of a government and political response that, too often, substitutes real action with mere activity.’
He added: ‘Our message was, and is, that the crisis facing the industry today is hurting aviation workers and their families. But, equally importantly, it’s having an extremely negative effect on the Irish economy as a whole. And it will continue to do so unless the industry receives urgent and sustained government support.’
Meanwhile, Forsa has warned of strike action against the Irish government’s plan to privatise 3,500 local authority water jobs and transfer staff to Irish Water by the end of July.
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) official overseeing talks on the proposals, Director of Conciliation and Mediation, Anna Perry, described the plan as ‘challenging’ and ‘very ambitious’.
Fórsa said that industrial action against the plan is ‘almost inevitable’ if the government attempts to coerce staff to relinquish their public service status and conditions to move to Irish Water.
Water services are currently delivered for Irish Water by local authority water services personnel operating under 31 Service Level Agreements due to continue till 2025.
Workers fear that they would lose their public service status, terms and conditions and security of employment.
The unions are also demanding a referendum to underpin public ownership and control of Irish Water as local authority staff fear the amalgamation within a single utility will be a ‘stepping stone’ to water privatisation unless a referendum takes place first.
In addition, they have also raised concerns about the future viability of local authorities if water services are removed from their control.
Fórsa National Secretary Peter Nolan said: ‘The repeated failure to respond to union concerns, or even to show some respect to the people who use and provide our water infrastructure, makes me think that industrial action is almost inevitable. The only question is when.
‘If workers are forced to transfer to Irish Water against their will, their anger and alienation will create a failed entity, a mortally-wounded service, and a public policy debacle to dwarf previous protests over water charges.’
Elsewhere, a bid by liquidators to have stock removed from the former Debenhams store in Limerick city failed on Monday night, after about 100 ex-staff and supporters staged a sit-down protest at the premises over their claim for redundancy from the ailing company.
Gardaí erected a ring of security steel fencing along streets and pavements approaching entrance points to the building, which is wrapped around by Sarsfield Street, O’Connell Street, Honan’s Quay and Liddy Street.
Many uniformed gardaí kept a watching brief as members of the Garda Public Order Unit forcibly removed protesters away from entrance gates to the building’s delivery depot.
However, protesters then laid down on the road to stop trucks entering the site.
Ex-Debenhams staff have been picketing outside the building for the past 400 days, conducting a blockade at entry points to try to prevent liquidators from removing stock, as an attempt at leverage behind their demand for fair compensation.
Debenhams closed its 11 Irish stores in April last year amid the first Covid lockdown, resulting in the loss of around 2,000 jobs.
The ex-workers, who have received only their statutory entitlements from their social insurance, were laid off by email, with no notice and no redundancy after decades of service in many cases.
They accuse the UK-based retailer of breaking the terms of a 2016 agreement to pay workers two weeks’ statutory redundancy plus two weeks ex-gratia, per year of service, in the event of redundancy.
Limerick Sinn Féin TD, Maurice Quinlivan, questioned what he called ‘the massive use of Garda resources’ in support of KPMG efforts to remove stock from the former Debenhams store in Limerick Monday night.
‘One must question if this was a worthy use of limited Garda resources. Last night we witnessed the deployment of up to 50 Garda personnel in support of KPMG stock removal efforts in Limerick. For many in Limerick it will come as a surprise that there were so many gardaí on duty,’ said Quinlivan.

  • Bakery operations at the Hovis site in Belfast are being disrupted, the business has confirmed, as a strike over pay continues with no end in sight.

As such, bread supplies to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland may be impacted, it added.
Members of Unite the Union and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, began the strike at 6am on Friday 14 May following a dispute over salary and have been on indefinite strike ever since.
The workers demand pay parity with their counterparts in Great Britain which equates to a 10% pay rise.
Sean McKeever, regional officer for Unite, said Hovis management ‘totally misread’ the determination of these ‘frontline essential workers’.
‘Entering the fourth day of this strike action, the socially distanced picket lines remain rock solid, 24 hours a day,’ he said on Monday.
‘These workers are determined to win their objective of pay parity with Hovis workers in Great Britain – and that means a 10% pay increase.
‘With reports mounting that Hovis bread products are missing from shelves in supermarkets and retail stores across Northern Ireland, we are calling on management to see sense and address their employees’ demands.
‘Continued failure to do so will mean that the bread shortages will extend further in coming days.
‘These workers are organised and they are not going anywhere.’