Saturday 21 April 2018

CIF in legal threat to crane-dispute union

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has threatened to take legal action against trade union Unite over the crane driver dispute. Stock photo: Bloomberg
The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has threatened to take legal action against trade union Unite over the crane driver dispute. Stock photo: Bloomberg

Fearghal O’Connor

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has threatened to take legal action against trade union Unite over the crane driver dispute.

The legal threat was contained in a solicitors' letter to a union official. It's understood it came as up to 20 CIF member companies placed as many as 2,000 construction workers, in a variety of roles, on protective notice pending any further escalation.

Such notices are not unusual in the sector but this is the first time that such a coordinated approach has been required by such a wide variety of companies, according to sources.

Legal firm A&L Goodbody, on behalf of CIF, wrote to Unite regional secretary Tom Fitzgerald demanding "full details of any and all purported secret ballots conducted in support" of the dispute, which has seen many crane drivers move from Siptu to Unite.

The letter, seen by this newspaper, alleged that the dispute was "unlawful" and that it had caused many CIF members to sustain "substantial loss and damage".

"This includes, inter alia, the cost of meeting their obligation to pay employees and subcontractors when work could not be undertaken due to the industrial action orchestrated by your union, and the incurring of penalties. Full details will be furnished in due course," it said.

Losses related to the pay dispute, ongoing since June, would amount to millions per day, according to well-informed sources.

"The employer side is using the legal system to leverage its position in this dispute," said Fitzgerald, when contacted by this newspaper.

"There is an attempt to elongate an industrial relations dispute that should be dealt with in an industrial relations forum.

"Going to court over issues such as the counting of ballots and secondary picketing is spurious. The only way to resolve this dispute is to sit down and talk, but we've never had any engagement or discussion with the other side."

Sunday Indo Business

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