Thomas Cook workers freed after angry demonstration

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SIXTEEN workers, eight trade union representatives and the partner of one of the staff who were brought before the High Court after they refused to leave the Thomas Cook premises in Dublin on Monday night were freed yesterday by a judge.

They were arrested at the Cook travel shop on Dublin’s Grafton Street early yesterday morning by 150 gardai.

Counsel for the staff yesterday afternoon told Mr Justice Michael Peart that they had undertaken to abide by his order and further undertook not to repeat any acts of disobedience.

However, at a demonstration outside the court feelings had been very high. Dublin Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) President, Phil McFadden told News Line: ‘If these people are jailed, it will go against the rights of all trade unionists and all people on the island of Ireland.

‘If they are jailed, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions should call a general strike.’

The 250 strong demonstration was supported by SIPTU, UNITE, The Socialist Party, Sinn Féin, the Independent Workers’ Union, Dublin Council of Trade Unions and the CPSU.

‘They would not let trade unionists into the court,’ McFadden told News Line.

He added: ‘We have a Labour Court, I can’t see why it went to the High Court.

‘The unions should take action, there’s no reason why we should let the capitalists walk all over us.’

The Thomas Cook workers were taken from the Bridewell Garda Station to the High Court, where they appeared at 2pm.

On Monday, Justice Peart ordered that the workers be arrested and brought before the court after they defied an order to leave their workplace on Grafton Street where they had been made redundant.

At around 5am yesterday morning, 150 gardai moved in and arrested around 30 workers occupying the office.

More than 40 employees had been involved in the occupation.

One of the women who had been taking part in the protest, Avril Clancy, was removed from the premises and taken to hospital where she gave birth to a baby girl, who has been named Chelsea.

Her partner, who had also been taking part in the protest, was allowed to visit them briefly in hospital before being returned to the Bridewell.

It was the Dublin Council of Trade Unions that called the demonstration.

Their call said: ‘DCTU condemns the arrests of the Thomas Cook workers and the heavy-handed treatment of them by the Gardai and justice system which is in sharp contrast to that meted out to corrupt bankers and errant employers’.

Speaking at the demonstration Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said ‘the distorted priorities of the Irish judiciary and the Garda Siochana speak volumes for how this country has gotten into such deep recession.’

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: ‘Where was the judiciary when the Irish banks were shamelessly engaged in reckless lending practices, when loans were hidden, when creative accountancy hid the real state of the Irish financial sector from the taxpayer who is set to pick up the tab?

‘White collar crime goes unpunished in this State; in fact it goes rewarded as we have seen with the release of the NAMA legislation last week, yet ordinary workers are being held to account in front of a High Court Judge for trying to secure a fair and equitable redundancy deal for themselves.

‘When more than 150 officers from Pearse Street Garda station broke down the door of the Thomas Cook premises on Grafton Street after 5am this morning, the failings of the Irish justice system could not have been any more obvious.

‘Mr Justice Peart ordered their arrest when they failed to vacate the premises following a court order issued on Saturday. What crime did they commit? What injustice did these ordinary people bring upon the Irish state? Did they engage in reckless lending practices, using bank deposits to play in a global banking casino?

‘No, these ordinary workers were standing up for their rights; their right to a decent redundancy package of eight weeks per each year of service.’