13 December 2005

Irish Ferries threaten to reduce redundancy offer

Irish Examiner

13 December 2005
By Dan Collins

IRISH FERRIES has threatened to reduce its proposed redundancy offer by one-quarter if strike-hit services to Britain are not resumed today.
Last night, talks under the aegis of the Labour Relations Commission failed to resolve the bitter dispute.

Irish Ferries services between Ireland and Britain have been paralysed for 19 days in a dispute over the company’s plan to replace 543 Irish workers with cheap foreign workers on €3.60 an hour.

Yesterday, unions welcomed the suggestion by Irish Ferries that the minimum wage would not be an issue for the company in the event of a solution to the crisis.

A Sunday newspaper reported that Irish Ferries had offered to pay the minimum wage of €7.65 an hour to non-Irish national staff.

Going into last night’s talks, SIPTU said the company “had not made one single offer to the union since the present process began, nor has it indicated any willingness to pay the national minimum wage”.

In a memo to seafaring staff, Irish Ferries chief executive Eamonn Rothwell warned that if the Ulysses, the Isle of Inishmore and the Jonathan Swift did not resume sailings tonight, the “cooperation payment” would be withdrawn.

The original redundancy package on offer to staff involved four weeks pay per year of service, in addition to statutory redundancy of two weeks per year.

An additional two weeks was to be paid for cooperation with the changeover to Eastern European crewing.

The company also decided the Jonathan Swift schedule should be reduced to a summer-only service with immediate layoffs being affected.

Yesterday, Irish Ferries issued a profit warning to the Stock Exchange, revealing that the dispute has already cost the company €5.5 million. Shares in the company closed 40 cent lower at €10.10 in Dublin this evening.

The company added that the cost could soar to €11m by the end of the year if the row was not resolved.

Responding to conflicting reports about friction between the two unions involved - SIPTU and the Seamen’s Union of Ireland - the former stated: “SIPTU has made no claim for exclusive negotiating rights, as alleged by the company.”

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