Friday 23 August 2019

Cheesestrings New Year promotion hit by unofficial industrial action

The Four Courts, Dublin
The Four Courts, Dublin

Tim Healy

A planned January back-to-school promotion of the "Cheesestrings" snack food for children has had to be cancelled as a result of a sit-in by workers at a production plant, the High Court heard.

The sit-in at the Kerry Foods plant in Charleville, Co Cork, began on Monday and ended lunchtime Tuesday just before the company applied to the court for orders preventing further alleged unofficial action.

Kerry Foods (Charleville) Ltd is seeking injunctions preventing the trade union Siptu and a number of workers from further interfering with production through unofficial action.

Mr Justice Tony O'Connor granted the company permission to serve at short notice injunction proceedings on the defendants and said the matter could come back to court next week.

Oisín Quinn SC, for Kerry, which is part of the Kerry Group, said Cheesestrings are a very popular product, particularly among children, and are a big seller at Christmas and the New Year.

An affidavit from Kerry's Barry Woulfe stated the sit in has already resulted in €36,000 worth of product having to be destroyed.   A planned back-to-school promotion in January has had to be cancelled.

Counsel said negotiations had been taking place with Siptu during the year as a result of the impact of Brexit on the company.

A ballot had been passed by the union approving industrial action for this Wednesday and Sunday.  However some 70 workers organised by the individual defendants, and it appears, with the support of Siptu engaged in an unofficial sit-in on Monday causing production to stop, he said.

Counsel said he was not seeking an interim order at this stage as the sit-in  stopped at lunchtime Wednesday and work resumed, although that now mainly consists of cleaning and washing down equipment.

The company was instead seeking short service of its proceedings and the unofficial action would hopefully not happen again, counsel said.

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