Today sees workers at Milne Foods in Birr on strike as they look for the company to come to the negotiating table in relation to pay and conditions.
The 24 hour strike began at 6.30am this morning at the fruit and vegetable processing company’s base in Syngefield Industrial Estate.
SIPTU industrial organiser Mick Browne explained the background to the strike, saying a number of issues including pay and overtime and shift premiums came to light after the majority of workers at the company organised themselves into a union some twelve months ago.
He said Milne Foods refused to meet workers to discuss the issues, and later failed to attend the Labour Relations Commission and then the Labour Court.
That court issued a recommendation that Milne Foods engage with the union with a view to reaching a collective agreement on pay and conditions he said, and the company’s refusal to engage with the union is what today’s strike was about.
“We can’t negotiate unless we have someone sitting at the other side of the table,” Mr Browne said, speaking from a picket line of about 18 workers earlier today.
Mr Browne said union membership runs to between 45 and 50 Milne Foods workers.
He said letters were sent to all members of Birr Town Council on Tuesday requesting a meeting to see if the council could be of any assistance in the matter.
Should today's strike get no response from Milne Foods Mr Browne said consideration will be taken as to what action to take next.
“If there isn’t any progress made there’s absolutely no doubt that we will be escalating the action,” he promised however.
Mr Browne said that since strike notice was served Milne Foods has issued a letter to all workers offering an increase on their rate of pay and giving commitment that an overtime premium - but not a shift premium - will be reinstated.
However Mr Browne said that the company not engaging with the union is a problem.
The general manager of Milne Foods told the Offaly Independent that the company will not be making a statement on the matter.