Ireland: Waste workers strike for 14 weeks over pay

A dispute over pay cuts led to 14 weeks of industrial unrest at Dublin firm Greyhound Waste Recycling.

This dispute began on 17 June 2014 when Greyhound workers were asked to accept new employment terms, which included a cut of up to 35% in basic pay. Workers refused to clock on and a protest began which later became a full on strike at two Greyhound depots.

Prior to the strike – called the Greyhound Lockout by the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) – there had been talks between Greyhound management and unions on cost reduction measures. This resulted in a Labour Court recommendation which recognised the pressing need for cost reductions and asked the parties to find ways to achieving them.

However the two sides interpreted the court’s recommendations differently. The main argument by management was that Greyhound staff, who were on legacy pay rates from Dublin City Council before the service was privatised in 2012, were paid well above the industry average. The industry average is around the same as the national minimum wage of €8.65 per hour.

When Greyhound employees went on strike, the company hired agency workers to operate its waste collection services. The strikers and some public representatives responded by blockading one of the Greyhound depots.

Just after the dispute began, Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton asked several state bodies to report to him about conditions in the waste collection industry. The outcome of this consultation with the Labour Relations Commission, the National Employment Rights Authority, the Health and Safety Authority and the Competition Authority is awaited.

During the dispute, the new Super Junior Minister for Business and Employment, Ged Nash, asked the Labour Court to establish a joint labour committee for the waste collection industry.

In September 2014, Greyhound sought High Court injunctions, which could have resulted in the imprisonment of some of the people involved in the blockade. However, a two-week negotiation period was agreed, and on 22 September 2014, new terms were agreed by union ballot and the strike ended.

The deal included a severance package of four weeks’ pay per year of service, as well as pay cuts ranging from 15% to 20% depending on the length of service. The deal was achieved on the basis of just 24 of the staff returning to work, with another 60 employees expected to leave.

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