A sit-in action by workers who occupied the Dublin store of international travel company Thomas Cook ended violently this week when scores of Garda police used battering rams to raid the premises and arrest the workers.
The sit-in highlighted the increasingly serious crisis facing the coalition government, which this week lost its majority in the Dublin parliament and saw unemployment increase to 12.2%.
The workers barricaded themselves inside Thomas Cook’s Grafton Street outlet on Friday last after being informed they were to be laid off with immediate effect.
The company turned to the courts, who granted an order for the arrest of the workers. The order was duly carried out in a dawn raid by dozens of Gardai on Tuesday.
Using battering rams to smash down the doors of the offices, they arrested the workers, including a heavily-pregnant woman, who subsequently gave birth under police guard in a Dublin hospital.
The rest of the employees were taken to Bridewell Garda station for questioning, before transfer to the Four Courts for sentencing.
Over 200 supporters of the workers, including activists from eirigi, Sinn Fein, People before Profit and the Socialist Party attended a protest rally to coincide with the court appearance.
In the court, judge Michael Peart released the workers after it was revealed that Thomas Cook had agreed to commence negotiations with representatives of their union, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association.
eirigi chairperson Brian Leeson commended the workers and urged union representatives to take a firm line with Thomas Cook.
“These workers have been treated abominably by Thomas Cook,” Brian said.
“This is a company that recorded profits of 400 million Euro last year and paid its CEO, Manny Fontenla Novoa, a 5 million pound bonus on top of an 850,000 pound basic salary. The closure of its Dublin operation and the axing of 77 jobs is an astonishingly immoral attempt to increase already massive profits.
“By taking the action they did yesterday morning, the Gardai and their political puppet masters are yet again placing themselves on the side of people who are treating working class Irish citizens like dirt.
“While working class people are met with battering rams and hostile Gardai, the criminal class of bankers, property developers and corrupt politicians are free to do what they please.”
Dublin Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh said the distorted priorities of the Irish judiciary and the Garda Siochana “spoke volumes” for how this country has gotten into such deep recession.
He said the workers were only trying to secure a fair and equitable redundancy deal.
“What crime did they commit? What injustice did these ordinary people bring upon the Irish state? Did they engage in reckless lending practises, using bank deposits to play in a global banking casino? No, these ordinary workers were standing up for their rights; their right to a decent redundancy package of 8 weeks per each year of service.”
“Actions speak louder than words and the sight of a pregnant worker being led to a Garda van, after having tried to secure a sufficient remuneration for herself gives us an indication of the actions that ail our country.
“Despite the banking sectors legacy of reckless lending that has driven us into a recession, not a single government Minister or banking executive has been held to account. Yet we arrest a pregnant woman for defending her rights.”
The Minister for Health, Mary Harney, was also forced to turn to the courts today [Friday] to secure an injunction against pharmacies protesting cutbacks in the community drugs scheme.
The High Court issued an order compelling 35 pharmacies to continue to provide medicine to the public under the terms of the scheme.
Meanwhile, two Fianna Fail TDs defected from the party this week over the cutback of health services in Sligo leaving the Dublin government in a precarious position in the Dail, where it no longer enjoys a majority.
The government now has only 82 assured votes in the Dail with the combined non-Government vote also totalling 82, with the Ceann Comhairle [Speaker] John O’Donoghue, holding the casting vote.