Workers at Bord na Mona who picketed outside the company’s headquarters in Newbridge last Tuesday, June 5, have vowed that they are “prepared to come out on strike again and for longer.
The one-day work stoppage was mainly over a long standing pay dispute between employees and management and there were pickets in sites in Longford, Westmeath, Laois, Offaly and Roscommon. Strike action was deferred in April after the company offered to pay workers €1,000 each and a pay increase of 3.5 per cent which was outstanding since 2008.
However, a number of other factors were also involved, including a “total lack of trust” in management according to a statement from the Bord na Mona Group of Unions and despite a recommendation to accept from the Group of Unions, workers voted not to accept the offer by 57 per cent.
“The employees feel that we are being aggressively managed,” said SIPTU spokesperson Theresa Murphy, from the picket line last week. “There is no trust in management. The company has availed of our productivity already and this was the final payment and they reneged on it.
“We are more than aware of the economic situation and our increase went from 6 percent to 3.5 percent. There is a heavy handed attitude being dished out by management at the moment. We’re not getting our wage agreement yet senior management are due bonuses in July. That is very hard to take. We are prepared to come out again and for longer.”
Fellow employee and SIPTU member David Smith has been with the company for 32 years.
“This is our first time out and look what they reduced us to,” he said. “We didn’t go lightly.”
The pay offer from the company was that the increase would take the form of a 1.75 per cent increase in pay and 1.75 increase linked to productivity.
There are almost 250 people employed by Bord na Móna HQ.
The Group of Unions’ statement also highlighted the plight of union members with the company who are on an hourly rate of €10.77 and as a result are forced to top up their income with Family Income Supplement. It stated that union members ‘do not believe they will ever get the second part of the proposed payment and if they do management will require something excessive in return’, and it highlighted the age profile of SIPTU members which it stated is ‘very high so therefore the issue of pensionable salary is of ultimate importance’.
In 2009 it emerged that there was a €52 million deficit in the staff pension scheme which currently affects 240 employees at their head office in Newbridge. A meeting took place with the Group of Unions on Monday however there was no update at the time of going to press. Meanwhile a statement from the company said they are ‘mystified’ at the allegations made and insisted the company has only ever acted on ‘good faith’.
“We are mystified by these latest allegations...I think any fair-minded person looking at this situation would find it hard to characterise the company’s actions in the negative manner described. The company did not dismiss the union’s demands but sat down and negotiated in an effort to achieve the best available agreement at the time. At the conclusion of these negotiations both parties agreed what we all considered was a very fair and reasonable settlement. The company did all of this in good faith and was entirely honest and professional in its relationship with the union team. It is unfortunate and very regrettable ...Regarding the statement on pay, Bord na Móna and the unions both agreed to co-operate and consult in a reasonable manner on these issues. Bord na Móna agreed this in good faith and remains committed to the agreement. We fail to understand the motives of anyone who would question our bona fides in this regard.”
- Paula Campbell