Dunnes Stores try every trick in the book to avoid strike – except agree to engage

Dunnes Stores management have tried every trick in the book to prevent tomorrow’s impending strike. They’ve intimidated staff, targeted key leaders and those in vulnerable positions. They’ve even threatened job losses if workers go on strike.

All because Senior Management refuse to do the responsible thing and agree to genuinely engage with their workers’ trade union, Mandate.

Reports coming into Mandate give a flavour of the anti-union activity on the ground.

  • Temporary workers are being warned not to join the Union and go on strike or they may not have their contracts renewed.
  • Managers are telling staff on 15 hour contracts that they’ll be reduced to the bare minimum if they go on strike – removing their ability to provide an income for their families.
  • Staff are having their shifts changed to disruptive hours so they can’t manage family commitments and may potentially lose their jobs through disciplinaries.
  • Some other workers on 15 hour contracts are being scheduled to work 12 hour shifts on the day of the strike in order to reduce their weekly income to just 3 hours – in the hope that they’ll break the strike through financial desperation.
  • Staff are being told that agreed annual leave will not be allocated if they go on strike.

Here’s a sample of some of the concerns raised by Dunnes workers:

“Hi, I am wondering can you reassure me please I work in Dunnes since 2014 I am on a six month contract/trial. Yesterday the managers were very intimidating, passing remarks like ‘if you are on your six month contract and have joined the union’ which I have, that ‘if you go out to strike you might be sacked’. If you could just reassure me that I can’t be or that they are just trying to make us scared?”

“Hi guys. Basically, in my branch, a good few of us are still in our 6 month probation period of our contracts. We are all for the strike and would like to help, but we’re worried that even if we join the Union, we won’t technically have the same protection as those who have passed their probation who are also in the Union… I’m saving for my Masters and have been on fulltime hours every week since I started. If anyone could give me some advice that I could share with the others in my branch that are in the same boat it would be very much appreciated.”

“Hi, I’m looking a bit of advice or maybe reassurance. Due to upcoming strike my store manager decided to make my life living hell. I’m not afraid to speak up or stand up for myself and other workers which could be the reason. He decided to change my hours completely just to make it as awkward for me as possible. He rostered me for very early mornings just to make it impossible for me to be on time, because of the babysitting arrangements. After approaching him about it his answer was, ‘because I have power to do so, and if you’re late you’re gonna be disciplined.’ As we know this could only lead to my dismissal. He also decided to put me on checkouts so my work wouldn’t be done on time (another reason for discipline action). I cannot speak to anyone about it because he’s a store manager and anyone above him would ignore my complaint. I will definitely stand with my colleagues on Thursday but I’m just afraid I could be in position of losing my job after all of this is over. My question is would he have power to let me go for such reason of me being “late” which is clearly due of me being in the union?”

“Hello. I am a Dunnes Stores employee. I am looking for advice. I have booked off holidays in April. My manager called me in today and told me that I can only have those days if I work all this week, which includes the day of the protest and only under those circumstances can I have the days off. Is this right?”

It would seem that rostering for the day of the strike has also been done in an insidious manner. Many workers who usually have 3 or 4 hour shifts have been given 12 hour shifts on the day for a number of reasons. Firstly, they’ll lose out on the maximum amount of hours and therefore income on the day, but also because of their 15 hour contracts, they’ll only be able to avail of three more hours for the rest of the week. Ask yourself if you could survive on 3 hours pay in one week?

Even today, on the eve of the strike, reports are emerging of workers being told to go home early. The Union has issued a communication to members informing them that they should only go home if they agree to it and the Company cannot instruct them to do so. The Company may be trying to interfere with their income so that they’ll break the strike out of financial desperation.

All this time and energy is being wasted trying to stop a strike that can be stopped so easily with just one phone call. The anxiety that Senior Management are causing their staff by refusing to engage and vetoing their workers’ human right to be represented by a trade union of their choice is a disgrace. Clearly this Company prefers this route of abuse, propaganda, lies, manipulation and conflict, rather than doing the decent thing. If all other major retail employers in Ireland can sit down and negotiate with their workers’ representatives, why can’t Dunnes?

That’s why Dunnes workers who do make a stand tomorrow deserve to be commended for their bravery. It is difficult for any worker to take industrial action, and it is always a last resort, but for Dunnes workers to be subjected to such atrocious behaviour and still to commit to industrial action is both remarkable and courageous. That’s why members of the public should support the Dunnes Stores workers as they strike for decency and fairness. It’s the least we can do.

Please don’t pass the picket.