Republican News · Thursday 06 July 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Workers picket in support of sacked colleagues

Attached photo: Sinn Féin Councillor Davy Hyland with the MKF workers on the picket line

On Monday 19 June, four workers employed by the Carnbane-based MKF company in Newry were suspended on full pay to await an investigation into ``willful destruction of company property''. The four men, members of the trade union SIPTU, were informed, after an initial investigation, that they would face a disciplinary hearing on a stage four charge of gross misconduct. After the hearing on Friday 23 June, the four employees, including a SIPTU shop steward, were dismissed with immediate effect. This decision was taken despite clear evidence, including management witnesses, that the men had no case to answer. MKF's new Operations Manager, Martin Dummigan, delivered the judgment at 3.30pm on Friday afternoon.

There was an immediate walk-out by all SIPTU members in protest. A 24-hour picket was initiated in support of the sacked employees.

The dispute carried on throughout the weekend and at Monday night's council meeting, 26 June, a delegation of four workers, accompanied by SIPTU official Brenda Callaghan, addressed the council chamber lobbying for support.

Many of the councillors refused to take one side or the other but Sinn Féin Councillor Davy Hyland fully backed the workers' cause when he described the company decision to dismiss the four workers as ``arrogant, arbitrary but ultimately immature''. He went on to outline the history of poor industrial relations at MKF and wondered if crazy management decisions were simply a cop-out for the company to leave Ireland ``like so many other fly-by-night firms''. It was agreed that a cross party delegation be established to help broker a resolution. The Labour Relations Agency was approached.

On Wednesday morning, 28 June, union officials told the workforce that negotiations had opened up with the factory owners. It was agreed that a tribunal be set up comprising a member of the management, a union official and an independent academic to broker a resolution in relation to the four sacked employees. As a measure of good faith, all other employees agreed to recommence production the next morning.

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