November 4th: Pickets will be placed on the Irish Life head office on Dublin’s Lower Abbey Street and at their Dundalk contact centre tomorrow (Thursday November 5th) between 12 noon and 2 pm. The two-hour stoppage is the first in a series of stoppages announced by trade union Unite in light of the company’s ongoing refusal to engage meaningfully with the union, which represents over 1,100 Irish Life staff. A ballot of Unite members returned a 92 per cent vote in favour of industrial action in the event of the company proceeding with its plans to impose unilateral changes to pay structures without agreement. Since then, the company has refused to meaningfully engage with Unite on behalf of all staff.
A conciliation hearing today (Wednesday November 4th) under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission proved to be what Unite Regional Officer Maeve Brehony termed a “box-ticking exercise” on behalf of the company, whom she accused of failing to respect either staff or the state industrial relations mechanisms.
Commenting, Maeve Brehony said:
“Unite has consistently attempted to engage with Irish Life in an attempt to avert industrial action. Unfortunately, the company has continually refused to engage with Unite – which represents over 1,100 Irish Life workers – on behalf of all our members, and instead has effectively decided that it will talk to some workers and not to others.
“It seems the company is determined to unilaterally implement a new pay model which will break the link between pay and profits, and between pay and inflation, and deprive our members of any certainty regarding future pay progression. Unite views this as an attempt to drive down wages in a highly profitable company, and in a sector which once provided ‘decent jobs’.
“As well as seeking to implement a new pay model which will be detrimental to our members, many of Irish Life’s customers will be surprised to learn that up to a third of workers at its Dundalk contact centre are currently earning below the Living Wage. Members of the public calling to ask about the company’s products may well find themselves talking to someone on poverty pay.
“Today, in a last-ditch attempt to avert the series of stoppages scheduled to start tomorrow, Unite attended a conciliation hearing. However, it is clear that this was nothing more than a box-ticking exercise on behalf of the company. Demonstrating a blatant lack of respect not only for its own workforce but also for the state industrial relations mechanisms, Irish Life refused to engage meaningfully and, crucially, maintained its refusal to attend the Labour Court in respect of all workers. The company is maintaining its intransigent stance and leaves our members with no option but to resort to industrial action in order to secure fair treatment”, Ms Brehony concluded.