SIT-IN BRINGS RESULTS FOR 4HOME WORKERS
Talks between management and unions at 4Home Store in Mitchelstown are due to resume on Monday next after being adjourned earlier this week.
The two sides are meeting under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission in an effort to resolve a row over the closure of the outlet.
All eyes were focused on the shop last weekend as workers occupied the building and refused to leave. With newspapers, radio and television around the country covering the story of the workers, management finally agreed to meet unions representing the workers and to bring the matter before the Labour Relations Commission.
Then, after making headlines across the country, the 4Homes Store workers elected to call off their ‘sit-in’ at the Mitchelstown store. One 4Home Store employee who does not want to be identified was happy the ‘sit in’ was over but fearful for his future.
“I have been working here for a number of years now and with the way things are going I don’t think I have much hope of getting a job in the area. I am very annoyed at the way we have been treated by the company. We were given two days notice that the store would close and then told there would be no discussion or plans to try to keep the store opened,” he said.
Three Co-Op Superstores, which operate under the 4Home brand, closed last weekend, with the loss of 40 jobs in Cork and Limerick. The affected stores are located in New Square, Mitchelstown; Patrick Street, Fermoy and Annacotty in Limerick. This wasn’t the first time that workers assumed such a stance in Mitchelstown.
During the war of independence employees at the Mitchelstown Creamery took over and posted a banner that read ‘We make butter, not profits’. Lorraine O’Brien, divisional organiser with the union Mandate, said the company broke agreements made with the employees.
“The treatment of these workers is a terrible reflection on the company, considering that some of the staff members have given loyal service for 38 years. The workers and their families deserve better than to be told their job is gone at the end of the week without any consultation,” Ms O’Brien told The Avondhu.
Support for the workers during their occupation of the store came from many living and working in Mitchelstown. The Mitchelstown Business Association (MBA) sent a letter offering their support.
“As a community we are sympathetic to the position that the staff find themselves in and call on the employers in 4Homes to enter into meaningful discussions to find a resolution to the current impasse,” the chairman of the MBA, Eamonn O’Brien, told The Avondhu.
Other supporters of the workers at 4Home stores felt that the town had been overlooked by many of the local public representatives.
“Where are our local councillors and TD’s? And what are they doing for jobs in Mitchelstown?” one passerby asked on Saturday. Community activist, Timmy ‘Rancher’ White, wants to know why the local politicians have remained quiet during the workers sit-in.
“It’s a disgrace the way the workers at 4Homes are being treated like this. It is also a disgrace that our so-called local elected representatives have nothing to say to the people who have lost their jobs. After all, one local councillor is an employee and the other is a shareholder of Dairygold, so we can’t expect much from them, “ Timmy White said.
Fermoy Labour councilors, Mayor Noel McCarthy and Cllr Tadhg O’Donovan, have jointly criticised the decision to close the 4Homes stores in the town and neighbouring Mitchelstown with the loss of nearly 30 jobs. Mayor McCarthy, who is also a member of Cork County Council, said he would be calling on Fermoy Town Council to support the workers who have been made redundant.
“As Mayor of Fermoy it is very disappointing to see the closure of 4Homes with the loss of 10 jobs in Fermoy and another 16 in Mitchelstown. We are fully behind the workers in their efforts to get their deserved entitlements and we have called to the store, as they cleared it out this week, to let the staff know of our support,” Cllr McCarthy said.
“We will do anything we can to help. I will have a motion down at the next meeting of Fermoy Town Council calling on the local authority to support the workers in seeking a satisfactory redundancy package. That motion will be seconded by Cllr O’Donovan,” he added. Cllr O’Donovan said the closure of 4Homes and the subsequent repercussions for its staff highlighted the importance of trade unions.
“As a life-long Trade Unionist I feel it is a necessity for workers to be a part of the Trade Union movement, especially in cases like this where, at the drop of a hat, staff were told last Wednesday that they would be made redundant as of next Monday,” Cllr O’Donovan said.
“It is a show of contempt for the workers in how management is executing this closure. It is only decent and honourable that, before the decision to close is made, staff are fully consulted on the matter and a redundancy package is agreed between employees and the employer,” he concluded.
The top floor of the building, the site where Mitchelstown Co-Op began in 1919, is now empty with Reidy’s Supervalu occupying the ground floor. Negotiations between the company and the workers are set to continue but there is little hope that any jobs will be saved in Mitchelstown.
Thursday 20th August 7:21pm