A 58-year-old grandfather is among those on hunger strike outside the Green Isle Foods plant in Naas, County Kildare, in a fight for workplace rights on behalf of himself and his fellow workers.
Jim Wyse began his hunger strike on Wednesday, February 17th because the company has refused to reinstate three fellow workers or engage with trade union officials on how to resolve the dispute.
Jim and his fellow members of the TEEU union have maintained a protest outside the gate for six month, through the worst winter in forty years, in defence of basic workplace rights.
The company has rejected initiatives by the Labour Relations Commission, National Implementation Body and the Labour Court aimed at resolving the dispute. It has also refused to accept Labour Court recommendations that it either reinstate the sacked men or pay them compensation.
A rally was organised on in Naas on Saturday followed by a march to the Green Isle plant.
Jim says he will not end the hunger strike until the company engages in negotiations to end the strike on a fair and equitable basis.
He is a 58 year old grandfather taking this stand on behalf of his fellow workers, most of whom are young men with families of their own. They have vowed to join him on the hunger strike, one each week, for as long as the company maintains its stony indifference to their plight.
The Sinn Fein spokesperson on Workers Rights, Martin Ferris TD, has called on Green Isle Foods in Naas to honour the Labour Court ruling in relation to workers who were made redundant there.
“Green Isle needs to abide by the Labour Court order that it pay improved redundancy or reinstate those workers whose sacking was the subject of the case. It must also undertake not to sack those workers who are currently on strike and who last week began a hunger strike.”
Republican Sinn Fein condemned what it said was the use of “scab labour” to break the will of the workers and their union.
“The Green Isle workers have been forced to take the grave decision to embark on a hunger strike and it is the duty of all workers to rally to their support.
“Green Isle products should be boycotted and the general workforce at the plant must now come out in support of their fellow workers and bring this dispute to a head.
“No right won by working people has been gifted from above but has only come as a result of organised struggle. A class war is being waged on the working people of Ireland and it is time to fight back,” said RSF president Des Dalton.
Green Isle Foods is owned by British food manufacturer Northern Foods headquartered in Leeds in the north of England. It has received 43 million euro in grants from the Dublin Government. It is the leading supplier of pizzas, frozen fish and frozen vegetables to Dunnes Stores, Superquinn, Tesco, Musgrave’s, Supervalu, Centra and Spar in the 26 Counties. Amongst its best known brands are Goodfellas and San Marco pizzas, Donegal Catch and, of course, Green Isle vegetables.