Irish Republican News · December 15, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Mixed reaction to Ferry workers’ deal

Trade unions are expected to call for its members to support an apparent resolution of the Irish Ferries’ dispute during talks early Wednesday morning.

Irish Ferries can proceed with its plan to replace existing seafarers with cheaper migrant labour under the deal finalised at the Labour Relations Commission.

But it will have to pay them at least the minimum wage - about twice what it had planned - and give them significantly more time off than originally proposed.

However, they will still earn less than Irish employees carrying out the same duties -- prompting accusations of a potential “two-tier workforce”.

Another key element of the deal allows the company to re-register its vessels in Cyprus, a plan which had been opposed until the eleventh hour by union officials.

The deal also guarantees industrial peace at the company for at least three years. Any issues over which the parties disagree must be referred to binding arbitration.

As Irish Ferries ships started sailing across the Irish Sea again, there was mixed political reaction to the deal.

In the Dublin parliament on Wednesday, the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that he was “very pleased” that an agreement had been made between unions and management at Irish Ferries.

The Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte gave the resolution a more cautious welcome, and said that such a deal that saw the minimum wage paid and workers made redundant was hardly a good example of social partnership.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on employment and workers rights, Arthur Morgan TD, said that though the agreement reached in respect of the Irish Ferries’ situation was not “the preferred outcome” it was an advancement on what was originally proposed by the company.

He was, however, disappointed that the agreement reached allows for the re-flagging of the remaining Irish Ferries’ ships.

“The gains achieved by the unions demonstrate the importance of solidarity between workers in opposition to displacement and outsourcing.

“Last Friday, December 9, the people of Ireland came out in large numbers to support these workers and demonstrate that the public at large do not accept the development of a low wage exploitative labour market.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News