Dubarry Workers blockade company.
Pickets were placed on the Dubarry shoe manafacturing plant in Ballinasloe, County Galway, this week, following management's continued refusal to implement a pay agreement for its lowest paid staff negotiated five years ago, a position that has now led to an all-out strike.
There are 100 workers on strike in support of the eleven newer workers affected. On Monday, 23 October, the strike committee imposed a blockade on the factory.
Dermot Connolly has worked in the factory for 12 years. ``It is an outrage the way the management are carrying on, refusing to uphold their agreement and refusing to even negotiate with us,'' he says.
Dubarry makes shoes and workers at the Ballinasloe factory are under pressure from cheap imports from the Far East and Colombia, from where Dubarry can buy shoes at a fraction of their Irish labour costs. ``There is little alternative employment in Ballinasloe, where Dubarry has always been the main employer, and got away with extremely low wages to workers,'' says Connolly. ``The nearest alternative work is in Galway or Athlone.''
Dubarry's agreement in 1995, which was supposed to last for only four years, meant that new workers lost as much as 20% on the maximum rates earned in the factory. With full bonus on the piecework pay scheme the company runs for the 100 full time long service workers, maximum earnings on the shop floor for people who've worked for the company for 50 years or more are at scandalously low levels of £270 a week.
After the four years were up, the new workers were to reach this level. But last December, the company refused to recognise the agreement to pay the full rate to the eleven workers. The agreement had originally applied to some 50 people, but many had left because of the scandalously low pay, or through redundancies.
Dubarry management has refused to discuss the issue. The workers, in SIPTU, went to conciliation and then to the Labour Court, but still management refused to budge.
A third party persuaded the company to meet last Saturday, but the management refused any concessions. On Monday, the 100 workers, outraged at the behaviour of management towards their eleven fellow workers, blockaded the factory.