Kilkenny could make history and fittingly mark the centenary of the 1913 Lockout by making the city a ‘fair employment area’, according to the Kilkenny Council of Trade Unions.
Secretary of that group Phil Funchion made a presentation at the June meeting of the borough council and received broad support from the members. He told the meeting that while there are ‘a whole host of good employers out there’, there remain employers who say they don’t have to recognise the right to be represented.
“We feel that the most fitting way to mark the struggles and sacrifices made is to do something effective,” he said.
“We can all have speeches, etc, but we want to help bring about what people were fighting for 100 years ago – the right to be represented by a trade union if they wish. What we mean by ‘fair employment area’ is a city where all workers have that right.”
Mr Funchion then produced a ‘suggested motion’, which was passed around for members’ consideration.
“I have met workers in the car, in the woods – that is the Kilkenny of 2013. They are afraid to be seen in case their employer would get word,” he said.
“The first step in our campaign is the endorsement of local authorities. You have a moral authority to say ‘the right to be represented is critical and we endorse it’.
“You can be the first local authority to endorse it and let’s get something moving.”
Cllr Marie Fitzpatrick said she agreed with what had been said.
“I have come across several people afraid to join a union, or someone would have gone to an employer and been told ‘this is not a union shop so you don’t have rights’,” she said.
“Everyone has the right to join a union and to have support when it is about their job, their work.”
Likewise, Green Party councillor Malcolm Noonan said he wholeheartedly supported Cllr Fitzpatrick’s words and suggested a notice of motion be put forward on it.
“It’s something I have come across in work I have done with Kilkenny Integration Forum,” he said.
“It is an issue that has impacted particularly on ethnic minorities and the immigrant community. It is a race to the bottom for some employers to take advantage of workers in vulnerable positions.”
The presentation received support from the members present. The then-mayor, Labour councillor Sean O’hArgain, said he warmly welcomed the fact the members had moved to put it forward on a cross-party basis.
The 1913 Lockout began on August 26, 1913. On August 31, James Larkin made his famous appearence in the window of the Imperial Hotel on O’Connell Street to address the crowd. He was arrested and a riot broke out in which many people were injured.