Friday 26 December 2014

Richard Bruton bows to 'Bash & Bomb' over job losses

Published 01/06/2014 | 02:30

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

A few hundred airline stewards, male and female, at Dublin Airport who felt they had a grievance over rostering – they'd like something more akin to what pilots have – disrupted the travel plans of 30,000 Aer Lingus customers for 24 hours, and then went back to work.

They might do it again. But on Wednesday they will sit down with Aer Lingus management to talk about it all. Really I don't care if the steward on the plane is knackered and can't wait to get home, as long as the pilot is awake and alert.

So they were struggling to get my attention anyway. But another event happened at exactly the same time that meant they disappeared completely from my radar.

That was the announcement in Waterford by the Canadian-owned contact lens manufacturer Bausch & Lomb that they want the immediate redundancy of 200 of their 1,100 employees and the rest to take a 20 per cent pay cut. That's a fifth of their salary, which is not excessive to start with.

And no, they won't be sitting down to talk about it all on Wednesday or Thursday or any other day. 'Bash & Bomb' have only one negotiating tactic – take it or we leave the country and you all lose your jobs.

Well, you might say, that's what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket called direct inward foreign investment. Foreign companies are doing us a favour by coming here anyway. We are, after all, an economically conquered nation and this episode just shows that we have not regained sovereignty.

But most people will not take that fatalistic approach. They will react with the same kind of anger they showed the two government parties in the local and European elections. They will see it as primarily a human story with distressing consequences for all concerned. All except Angelo Conti, vice president of the parent company, Valeant, and his colleagues.

And then there is the Minister for Jobs, Richard Bruton. Exceptionally difficult and uncertain day for the workers, he said, like a man commenting on the weather. Then he got down to business. Basically there's no point in talking to these boys. Best we can do is give our blessing to the savagery while wringing our hands and then beg them to stay. Look, we'll even give you more money if you don't go. "Substantial financial support" was available, Richard said.

That's not for the people losing their jobs or taking the big pay cut. That's for Angelo. And he didn't even ask for it. All he wanted was 200 redundancies and a 20 per cent cut for the rest – but go on, go on... you will, you will... take it, Angelo, take it...

That's the Minister for Jobs, who apparently knew that this was coming – but didn't see fit to mention it while there was an election going on.

I think his brother John, the former Taoiseach, is right. With these guys in charge, we could be facing another 10 or 15 years of austerity.

Sunday Independent

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