Last Thursday. the 2nd of April, more than 5,000 Dunnes Store employees across 100 branches nationwide took to raising their banners and voices in defense of their rights as workers. The strikers, backed by the Mandate trade union, opted out of work for the day to oppose unfair and inconsistent work contracts. Furthermore, they were striking for Dunnes’ to recognise their representation through a trade union. According to the Irish Times, this was one of the biggest ‘private sector strikes in recent years’.
Prior to the strike there were a number of reports of bullying and intimidation of staff by branch management. The staff were repeatedly threatened with cuts in hours if they went on strike. A false notice was circulated, claiming to be written by each store’s ‘staff’, claiming that they people on the picket line did not represent the majority of Dunnes workers. It urged customers to ‘pass the picket’ and continue to shop in Dunnes on the day of the strike. If that was not atrocious enough, they also underhandedly offered in-store and online discounts to customers for the day. This, to me, demonstrates a complete and utter lack of consideration and respect for the company’s staff.
This is not the first time Dunnes Stores has displayed their contempt for their staff. In the 1980s a three-year long strike took place by Dunnes workers who were suspended because they refused to handle South African fruit. The reason? Because apartheid was still rampant in the country and Dunnes’ workers, some of the first of their kind, chose to take a stand against this.
Since the strike last week Dunnes have continued their bullying techniques by reducing strikers hours, transferring people and even sacking people.
I know sometimes it’s hard to understand something that’s not affecting you or someone you know. But i reckon all of us will find ourselves, or someone we know, in an undesirable work situation at some point in their lives. The only way these people are going to be heard is if we all support them and boycott Dunnes. When my parents got jobs after leaving school in Ireland in the late 70s, they got permanent, lifetime jobs. That’s not what Ireland is like anymore. More and more we are going towards a system of zero hour contracts and increased power on the side of the employer. A few years ago my friend Jen worked for HMV and the company, unbeknownst to the staff or branch managers, was going bankrupt (that’s what the likes of itunes does to CDs huh?). They consciously let the staff work all over Christmas and afterwards, once they announced bankruptcy, refused to pay the staff. Eventually, after much public outrage, they got paid. But, i wonder how this is allowed to happen to workers? The Dunnes strike is one of the first strikes we’ve seen about these type of contracts and working conditions but i doubt (and hope!) it will not be the last.
So if you need to do your shopping, do it in Tesco, where the workers are represented by a trade union. I know i wont be shopping there again, until they treat their workers with respect and consideration.
If you feel as angry about this as i do then try channeling it into joining the decency for Dunnes FB page: https://www.facebook.com/DecencyForDunnesWorkers?fref=ts
Or sign their Uplift petition. Let’s get that bad boy to 20000 signatures: https://uplift.ie/support-dunnes-workers/