Recently, forklift manufacturing firm Cargotech – based in Dundalk – moved 40 of its workers to another company For Surface Protection. The move to FSP was done without consultation with the workers’ union, Unite, and Cargotech have refused to engage with them about the move.
The workers, backed by Unite, have engaged in strike action over the decision, and Cargotech’s refusal to engage with the union. A member of the Connolly Youth Movement’s Louth branch visited the picket to provide solidarity with the workers, and to speak to them about the strike.
Alan Cash, the shop steward for Cargotech’s Dundalk factory says that the work environment is very distressing and annoying. The others in the factory have seen forty of their colleagues moved to another company with no consultation – a move that they didn’t want to make. The driving force behind the strike has been this lack of consultation.
“We’d like to have a choice. It could have been solved very easily had they spoke to us six months prior to when they made the decision. Instead, the decision was made when they started talking to us. It’s very disappointing that they went down that road,” he says.
Before taking the strike, the workers exhausted the other avenues available to them. When the case was originally brought to the Workplace Relations Commission the company withdrew from the process.
Brian Hewitt, the regional officer for Unite Dundalk, says that the company’s engagement to date has been totally inadequate.
“We’ve offered three solutions to the process of transferring people out and the company has rejected all three. They’ll be the basis of our agenda going into third party talks,” he says.
A prominent issues has been the companies handling of TUPE. TUPE – transfer of undertakings – is designed to protect workers when the business that they work for changes hands. The new employer is obliged to abide by and uphold any already existing contracts the workers may have. However, TUPE does not transfer pensions, so it is reasonable to think workers would want an input if they face losing their pension in the move.
“TUPE protects the individuals. It’s not the TUPE that we’re objecting to, it’s the manner in which it was done,” says Brian.
However, the strike is not something the workers want to be doing says Alan.
“We would rather be in there working away. All of us would rather be in there instead of standing outside the gates here. It doesn’t help any party, so to repeat myself, we are willing to talk and hopefully the company will come to their senses and say ‘right we’ll talk and we’ll see if we can solve it’. It will be solved easy if we just sit down and work together,” he says.
Of the forty that are being transferred, Brian says, only five to ten want to stay with Cargotech. One of the aims of the strike then is to see a solution for those members. A second aim is for the union to be consulted on any changes like this going forward.
The union want to “agree the terms and conditions, not that we have a blockade on it but that we’re informed first and then we can educate the members as to what’s coming down the road,” says Brian.
The workers have since entered negotiations with a third party.
The situation in Cargotech is a classic case of the working class being neglected in favour of the goal of the capitalist class – profit.
The Connolly Youth Movement extends its solidarity and good luck to the workers in Dundalk, and hope they achieve everything that they have taken action for.