Transport firm hires ex-garda for strike vote
A transport company which supplies Tesco supermarkets and which is facing a one-day strike this week has called in a retired assistant garda commissioner to supervise a secret ballot of its workforce.
The highly unusual move, which will be overseen by former assistant garda commissioner Martin Donnellan, will ask workers at the Stobart Ireland firm if they support a Siptu strike on Thursday.
It follows a Siptu decision to take one-day industrial action in protest at what they say is the company's refusal to discuss their grievances over excessive working hours and health and safety issues.
However, Sean Brogan, managing director of Stobart Ireland, said the company had outlined to drivers the serious difficulties the business now faces, as a result of Siptu's decision to issue a strike notice.
"If we are unable to honour commitments to customers under existing structures, then I, as managing director, have a responsibility to find alternative means of doing so. We are actively considering other options at present," he said.
He said the company has spoken with as many drivers as possible over the past 24 hours and "it is becoming increasingly clear that full support for Siptu's decision to strike does not exist among drivers. Many drivers have contacted us to say they were unaware of the Siptu decision to strike".
"Therefore, to ensure that absolute clarity exists among everyone involved, we intend asking workers directly by secret and independent ballot of their intentions. A very clear and straightforward ballot will be put before all drivers, asking them directly whether or not you support Siptu's decision to strike," he said.
"These are difficult economic times. I firmly believe that it is not in anyone's interest that we put our business and people's livelihoods at risk by unnecessary strike action."
He said Stobart Ireland would respect the outcome of the ballot.
However, Siptu sector organiser Karan O'Loughlin said Stobart could solve its industrial relations problems by just listening to its drivers and doing something about the health and safety concerns they are raising.
"What the company doesn't get is that their drivers have no alternative but to stop work in order to highlight their grievances. They are driving the length and breadth of the country and are tired from excessive working. They know this can't continue and so should Eddie Stobart," she added.