Shanganagh plant workers defer strike

by Gazette Reporter

WORKERS at the Shanganagh Waste Water Treatment Plant – the €98.5 million facility recently opened to serve 248,000 people in the greater Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown area, and beyond – have deferred their planned strike after a worker, who had been dismissed for union activity, was reinstated.
The workers had voted unanimously for strike action at the plant on Thursday, April 25.
However, the union will now meet representatives of SDD, which operates the Waste Treatment Plant on Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s behalf, and recruiting agency, ICDS, which employs the workforce to run the plant, at the Labour Relations Commission on May 9.
SDD Shanganah Water Treatment Ltd comprises John Sisk & Son Ltd, and Spanish companies, Dragados SA and Drace Medio-Ambiente.
SIPTU sector organiser Martin Meere said: “The workers are pleased that their terms for deferring strike action have been accepted.
“The worker who was dismissed and reinstated was a union shop steward and, although the joint venture [SDD] is claiming union membership was not the reason for his dismissal, no other was given, as he did nothing wrong.
“The strange thing is that the joint venture companies support unions in their own countries.
”We’ve told them that if we don’t make significant progress on a number of normal terms and conditions, such as working hours, by May 21, pickets will be placed at the Shanganagh plant and the strike will commence.”
A representative of SDD said that operations at the plant will continue as normal, whether or not strike action is implemented.
“The employer of the staff involved [ICDS] have told us and SIPTU that they totally reject the claim, made by SIPTU, that they don’t recognise the right of their workers to be collectively represented by SIPTU.
“SDD wants to make clear that the dismissal referred to by SIPTU had nothing whatsoever to do with union activity,” said the representative.
Cllr Denis O’Callaghan (Lab) told The Gazette: “[This matter] raises the issue of public/private partnership. The council has no role as such in staffing [at the plant]. It is a very bad arrangement.
“We will have to stitch in a clause in future where unions are recognised properly. It is unacceptable for the company not to recognise the union’s right to negotiate.
“Legislation needs to be looked at around private/public partnerships and the conditions and rights of staff,” said Cllr O’Callaghan.
Cllr Jim O’Dea (FG) said: “Shanganagh Waste Treatment Plant serves both Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Council Council and the Bray area.
“I find it highly regrettable and amazing that, in a project funded by the State and councils, there is even a question about the right of unions to represent workers.”
Cllr Melisa Halpin (PBP) said: “The whole event shows that if workers stand up to this kind of bullying by management, they can win.
“We need real fighting unions in this country if workers are not going to be forced to take all the pain of this recession.”
SIPTU organiser Pat McCabe said: “The workers are also calling on Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to clearly state its expectation that the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining should be respected.”
A council spokesperson said: “The issue is a matter for SDD, as the operator of the plant. The parties involved are due to meet at the Labour Relations Commission this week, to discuss other outstanding issues. The council cannot comment on this issue while discussions are taking place.”
ICDS had not responded to a Gazette request for comment by the time of going to press.

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