Textile workers locked out
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
THIRTY REDUNDANT workers have been picketing the offices of the Colmeg clothing company in Dublin's Cork Street for the last two weeks. The company is owned by Brian Tucker, a well known name in Dublin's clothing trade. The workers had been involved in negotiations to secure adequate redundancy payments with the company when they found themselves locked out on Thursday 27 April.
The Colmeg workers were paid their wages in a car park across the road from the company's offices. They say that Colmeg, which produces Brian Tucker-labelled suits and jackets that are sold in Kilkenny Design and Blarney Woollen Mill, is only closing the manufacturing end of the company. The company is, according to its locked out workers, going to import clothes and relabel them for distribution to retailers.
Both the government and Colmeg have a responsibility to these workers. The decline in the clothing industry has been well signposted. There should be programmes running to help textile workers retrain, yet these workers are being dropped into an employment vacuum
Aengus Ó Snodaigh
The total redundancy package offered to the 30 Colmeg workers was between £28,000 to £32,000. The highest single redundancy payment will be £2,500, even though some workers have been working for companies run by Brian Tucker for up to 20 years.
Phoblacht spoke to Pat Parsons, SIPTU shop steward at Colmeg. He said that most of the workers earned a basic £150 a week, rising to £247 with increased productivity. Many of the workers at the company were over 40 and would never work in the clothing trade again as so many similar business have closed down in Dublin due to the competition from cheap mass produced imports.
They need a higher redundancy package above the statutory payment in order to tide the workers over while they retrain for work in newer industries.
Sinn Féin's area representative, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, told An Phoblacht that the closure highlights the failures of current employment policies: ``Here is an example where workers are losing their jobs through absolutely no fault of their own. We are told there is a skills shortage in the economy. Where are the facilities to retrain these workers to jobs where they can earn an adequate income and a decent dignified standard of living?
''Both the government and Colmeg have a responsibility to these workers. The decline in the clothing industry has been well signposted. There should be programmes running to help textile workers retrain, yet these workers are being dropped into an employment vacuum.''
SIPTU has sanctioned an official picket at Colmeg. The workers are now entering their third week of protest. They want a settlement and are prepared to meet Colmeg's owners at any time to discuss what they believe would be a fair redundancy package.