Workers of Kieran Street Dunnes Stores hit the pavement at 7am on Thursday morning last. Armed with picket signs and sullen faces, the workers involved in the demonstration marched across each of the building’s entrances giving flyers to all that passed, emblazoned with the words ‘Don’t Shop At Dunnes Stores, Kieran Street, Kilkenny’ which urged shoppers to bring their custom elsewhere until the dispute is resolved.
Divisional Organiser for Mandate Trade Union Ireland, Bill Kelly, was encouraged both by the high morale of the workers on the picket line, and by the low numbers of customers wishing to enter the store. ‘No respect for the workers’, commented Kelly, as he explained the large scale rostering changes to senior staff’s hours. Many workers who have been with the company 10 years plus have been cut to a 15 hour week, some even being suspended, according to Mr Kelly. He criticised the store further, stating that management have refused negotiations on numerous occasions, including a refusal to an invitation to attend the Labour Relations Commission.
“Things have gone back to the way of the 80s” says Catherine Purcell, current employee of Dunnes Stores Kieran Street, who has worked there for 16 years. “Workers can’t relate to management any more”, she adds, noting the loss of a friendly bond between employer and employee. Despite the loss of a day’s wage, she was happy to be out on the picket line standing up for her fellow workers.
Karen Wall, also a representative of Mandate Trade Union Ireland and former employee of Dunnes Stores Kieran Street for over 15 years, expressed her gratitude and feelings of solidarity with the group of over 30 employees she joined in picketing, adding that they were “full of courage to do what they’re doing”. Like current employee Catherine, Karen Wall (employee of the branch at the time) also related the hurt feelings of the current situation to those of the employees of the late 1980s noting many similarities, pointing out the feelings of ‘frustration at the company who are treating them very badly’.
Employees are hoping for a speedy resolution to issues before they return to work.