STAFF at Dunnes Stores have been hit with €50 fines and threats by management to clamp their cars after parking in the store car park.
Mandate Trade Union has called on Dunnes Stores to reverse last month's decision to forbid staff in stores nationwide from parking cars in the customer car park in the busy pre-Christmas period.
So far, it appears only staff in the Dunnes Stores branch in Newbridge, Co Kildare, have been issued with the fines and repeat offenders have been warned they will be clamped if they continue the practice.
A Mandate union official, the union which represents workers in the retail industry, said she had been made aware of up to 25 cases where tickets had been issued by the car park management company in Newbridge, which had been instructed to issue the fines.
Mandy Kane, the Mandate divisional organiser, said many of those who had been issued with the fines are low-paid and cannot afford to pay them.
"Many of the affected workers have had their hours cut by the firm, and in some cases only receive three hours per day.
"This is despite the fact the company has hired hundreds of other staff members -- most on low-hour contracts -- meaning an even higher demand for the company car park. It's an absurd situation," she said.
She said she was aware of at least one case where an employee, working a 15-hour week, was fined for parking his car in the car park -- meaning the worker was charged more than was earned for the day's labour.
Ms Kane said there was nowhere else for staff to park their cars and said it was a health and safety issue if staff, particularly female workers, had to walk long distances to their cars late at night.
"You can't park on the main street, where it's pay parking, or behind the shop because it's residential parking.
"So if they're coming out at all hours of the night and morning, because some finish at 2.30, they then have to walk and find their car, which is nuts and it is a risk," she told the Irish Independent.
Dunnes Stores could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
A spokesperson for the company that operates Dunnes Stores' car parks, Euro Car Parks, said they were carrying out the instructions of the store management, and the practice was to be carried out in the period from Thursday to Sunday up to Christmas.
He said the company would continue to issue fines to staff, in addition to other car owners who had left their cars in the free car park but were not shopping in the store.