Saturday 18 November 2017

SOLAS staff vote for strike amid new claims of bullying

Voter turnout was down
Voter turnout was down

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

STAFF at a centre run by new State training agency SOLAS have voted in favour of strike action.

The row is the second involving bullying and harassment allegations to hit the fledgling body since it was set up to replace FAS late last year.

A strike ballot by staff at the training centre in Raheen, Co Limerick, was passed by a margin of 50 to 10 following months of unrest, the Irish Independent has learned.

However, it is not yet clear if workers will go ahead with the threatened industrial action.

Sources said staff were waiting to hear further details from SOLAS about a proposal to appoint a facilitator before deciding whether to proceed with the strike.

The dispute arose after a number of staff expressed unhappiness with working conditions at the centre. Some have been seeking an external investigation into allegations of harassment and victimisation.

Allegations regarding the treatment of some staff were forwarded anonymously to SOLAS earlier this year. These alleged certain staff members had suffered harassment and bullying. It is unclear if the allegations have any substance.

However, tensions were exacerbated after management at the centre convened a general meeting of staff where copies of the letter were circulated and they were asked for their observations.

SIPTU officials wrote to SOLAS management in March, highlighting what they described as a number of "serious issues" at the centre.

A ballot was held and the results were notified to staff in the past week. SOLAS declined to comment when contacted by the Irish Independent.

It is understood the agency has made a number of proposals in an effort to resolve the dispute.

The developments in Limerick come just weeks after the new agency was criticised in the Dail over its alleged treatment of whistleblower Una Halliday, a Co Louth-based training co-ordinator who exposed questionable training practices at FAS five years ago.

The chairman of the Dail's Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinnness, claimed Ms Halliday was no longer being given work duties, a telephone or the use of a computer in her office. The agency previously made a settlement with Ms Halliday for just under €100,000 arising from a separate complaint that she was victimised for highlighting exam irregularities.

Irish Independent

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