Kilbeggan Races managing director Paddy Dunican

Stable staff hold brief strike in Kilbeggan over water issue

By Sarah Slevin

A brief strike took place at the Kilbeggan Races meeting last week, after it was claimed that racecourse management initially refused to provide free bottled water to stable staff.

The 25-minute strike, which was backed by trainers, took place on the evening of Friday, July 15, when stable staff asked for free water bottles to be provided.

Kilbeggan Races managing director Paddy Dunican was informed that stable staff were not going to lead up the horses and that racing would have to be cancelled, unless they were provided with free bottles of water.

Racing was delayed for approximately 25 minutes until management sent down cases of bottled water to be to be distributed free to those in the stable yard.

Speaking to the Racing Post, Irish Stable Staff Association chief executive Bernard Caldwell said that stable staff were informed they could purchase water at a subsidised rate of €1.50 a bottle in the canteen.

“The walk from the stable yard to the parade ring is half a mile at Kilbeggan. We walk in long grass, it’s very tiring on a hot day,” Mr Caldwell said.

“We spoke with trainers and the stewards about the situation, and the manager was called in to the stewards over the issue. When his attitude towards this was to not provide water, I rang back the stewards and told them we were protesting,” he added.

Caldwell described it as an “unfortunate” thing to happen, and insisted that stable staff did not want to disrupt the racing action, but it was a health and safety issue.

“There are a lot of elderly trainers who we feel sorry for having to leave their horses at the stable yard and walk up, but there’s no sympathy at Kilbeggan. It’s one of the few tracks in Ireland we’ve had problems with. We’re not asking for much,” he added.

In response, Mr Dunican said there had been no previous complaints since the track’s new catering company came in last April.

“The members of the Kilbeggan Race Committee, like many other racecourse committees, work voluntarily to provide the vital underlying infrastructure free to the horse racing industry to stage horse racing,” said Mr Dunican, adding that “many people make vast amounts of profits from the horse racing industry”.

“We would expect that any association that has an issue with a service on our racecourse, would raise the issue in advance of our race meeting, rather than threatening the paying public and members of the industry,” he continued.

Mr Dunican pointed out that the catering is substantially subsidised, to provide a hot meal and a soft drink or a hot drink, for €5. This is significantly below the travel subsistence allowance paid by employers, he added.

“We cannot afford to subsidise hot meals for our employees and yet we have to provide free admission tickets and free meals to many of the participants benefiting significantly financially from the racing industry.

“Ultimately, it is the hard-pressed taxpayers who have to foot the bill,” Mr Dunican added.