Tag Archives: Dunnes Stores

margaret-heffernan-i

Margaret Heffernan, Dunnes Stores CEO

Don”t make Margaret angry.

Too late.

It is understood store workers were told to turn up for work on Friday morning but that they would be doing so “behind closed doors”. Management were unable to provide them with details of what would happen from then on.
Betty Dillon, Mandate’s divisional organiser for the southeast, said the mood after the meeting was bleak.
There is absolutely huge upset. There are members of staff going around crying, terribly distraught, terribly upset,” she said.
“[They were told] it would close until further notice. I believe at this point in the evening notices have gone up on the doors to say this store is now closed.”

Dunnes Stores ‘shock’ decision to close Gorey store (Irish Times)

Previously: They’ve Only Gone And Dunnes

(Photocall Ireland)

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Former Dunnes Stores workers Corinna and Tony Malone on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live last night

Corinna had worked in Dunnes Stores for seven months before she was recently sacked after taking industrial action. She said she had been working approximately 28 to 33 hours a week while, at Christmas, she worked 15 to 20 hours – because there are more workers hired during the Christmas period.

Corinna told Claire Byrne on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live last night:

“After I took [industrial] action, on Friday, the 3rd of April, I was doing my shift and I was brought up to the office by personnel and the management. Basically, they just said they wanted to let me go. I asked, ‘why?’. And they said they couldn’t give a reason…I was very upset. I was told I had to work a week’s notice, which I did.

I just didn’t know what to do that day as I had to go back on to the check-outs, after I was being told, by management, that I was being let go…

No [I don’t regret the action I took]. I’m happy that I did go out on strike on that day because low-hour contracts – you’ve no life, you can’t plan your life. You can’t get mortgages, you can’t get loans. So, something has to be changed…I have to go on Social Welfare now and I have to apply for more work.”

Tony Malone, who worked in Dunnes Stores in Dundalk before he was sacked, told Claire:

“We went on strike on the Thursday and I went in on the Friday morning, as normal, and as the morning went along, I just spoke to one of my colleagues and said I had a weird feeling. And he said, ‘what do you mean?’. I said, ‘I’ve just an empty feeling’, I just feel something bad is going to happen.

So I went on my lunch, around 11am and I came back and I got the phone call to come up the stairs to the HR office and my manager was there and the HR manager was there and they asked me would I like any representation. I declined. So they sat me down and they says, ‘right, we’re going to have to let you go, due to the downturn in business.’ I goes, ‘sure this is victimisation over what happened yesterday’ and they said, ‘no it’s not’ and I goes, ‘well you look from the outside in and you tell me this isn’t victimisation, less than 24 hours after what happened yesterday’.

And I just left then…[Life on a low-hour contract] is bad. You can’t get bank loans for a house. You can’t get Credit Union loans. People don’t want to know you. All people are interested in is, what’s on your contract at the end of the week.

They don’t care if you’re getting 40 hours a week, all they’re interested in seeing is what you’re guaranteed every week…Everybody needs a bit of stability in their life. That’s all everyone was looking for, before anything happened. A bit of stability, a bit of a guarantee, so they can have a life.”

Dunnes Stores declined to have a respresentative on the panel.

Watch in full here

john-callan-tony-maloneGREECE-FINANCE-ECONOMY-JOBS-PROTEST

Tony Malone (top right with his Mandate union rep John Callan), who was sacked by Dunnes in Dundalk after he went on strike, and (above) laid-off cleaning staff from the Ministry of Finance protesting in Athens, Greece in 2013

What connects The Dunnes Stores workers and the 600 women cleaners who were employed by the Ministry of Finance in Greece but fired in 2013 due to austerity?

International solidarity.

Julien Mercille writes:

The sanction has been swift. Immediately after the one-day strike at Dunnes, Margaret Heffernan [Dunnes Stores CEO] targeted a number of workers “from all over the country” to punish them for participating in the strike.

One striker, Tony Malone, was fired the day after the work stoppage took place. Reports indicate that he’s not the only one and that many others have had their hours cut or their position changed. Mandate, the workers’ union, is now seeking legal advice on how to go about rectifying the situation.

When their privileges are challenged, the powerful retaliate swiftly and forcefully to send a message to people elsewhere who could get similar ideas. The Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement show that progressive ideas can spread rapidly.

This is one reason why Greece under Syriza is so demonized by the troika. Elites know very well that similar challenges are growing in other countries, most notably Spain, but also here, through movements like the water charges protests.

Related, we often hear that the European economic crisis is a result of Germany oppressing weaker countries like Ireland and Greece to teach them a lesson for others to see. There is truth in that, but it is misleading to pitch “the Germans” against “the Irish,” because every country is divided into a minority of elites and a majority of ordinary people.

It is more accurate to say that all elites – German, Irish, Spanish, etc.—share very similar goals against ordinary Europeans. That’s why the Irish government has been as happy as the German one and the troika to implement austerity here. It is also why when Syriza came to power, Greek, German, Spanish and Irish elites were all very upset, and still are.

We thus find struggles by ordinary people against austerity throughout Europe that are very similar to that of the Dunnes workers. For example, in Greece, there is the well-known case of the 600 women cleaners employed by the Ministry of Finance who were fired in 2013 due to austerity policies. Syriza promised to re-hire them if elected and the negotiation process is ongoing in order to establish the terms under which they would be given their jobs back.

After learning they had been fired, the women held regular peaceful protests in Athens, chanting slogans at the gates of Finance Ministry. The police was sent to deal with them. Amnesty International reported that they were left “beaten and bruised” by riot police.

The police hit the women with their shields and kicked them and some had to be taken to the hospital. One woman reportedly had her leg fractured. Amnesty International said that “the culture of impunity among the ranks of the Greek police is so deeply ingrained that officers believe they can get away with such flagrant human rights violations—and they often do.”

The media won’t highlight those similarities as obvious grounds for cross-border solidarity. Rather, they will play up nationalist feelings to try to rally people behind their own governments and elites. And they will, of course, repeat ad nauseam that austerity is a great thing and that There Is No Alternative, as I have shown in my recent book on the subject.

Actually, Pat Leahy, the Deputy Editor of the Sunday Business Post, seems to agree with my conclusion about the media’s coverage of austerity. In a column published yesterday on the subject of media bias, he states that his view is that the Irish “media’s attitude to austerity has been to favour it in general terms,” although opposition to particular policies often appears. Exactly what my book says.

Some in the media have tried to defend Dunnes Stores against its workers. Richard Curran wrote in the pages of the Irish Independent an article entitled “Businesses Should not be Vilified over Workers’ Casual Contracts.”

He says that “the easy narrative is that companies are increasingly exploiting workers in order to make ever-larger profits,” but according to him, the “reality isn’t that simple.” This is because some workers at Dunnes are happy with the hours they have, and after all, “there is nothing unfair in these [zero-hour] contracts,” as “it is how they are applied that causes problems.” Also, in the age of globalisation, “many companies themselves are in a less secure and more precarious position” and they could “find their entire business model undermined by competition.”

This is throwing ifs and buts out there to confuse a situation that is crystal clear: Dunnes workers are not treated fairly, and their employer is responsible. Splitting hairs until issues are blurred is a standard mass media tactic. And yes, there is international competition that leads businesses to cut labour costs—but that’s the problem, not an excuse for what is happening.

To cut through the spin, just look at this recent survey of 1,200 Dunnes workers that revealed that:

98% of workers want more stable hours
85% say insecurity of hours and rostering is used as a method of control
88% believe hours are unfairly distributed
88% believe they are not treated with dignity and respect

International solidarity would help those workers as much as it would help the Greek cleaning women. But solidarity is arguably even more important within Ireland. Irish trade unions should cooperate to a greater extent to support workers facing difficulties in various economic sectors, public or private.

In other words, unions should be about social change, not just about the relatively narrow issue of salaries for their own members. Moreover, as many of us as possible should support Dunnes workers, because ultimately we all win when work norms are improved in any given economic sector.

Perhaps a slogan could be: People of Ireland, unite. You have nothing to lose but Margaret Heffernan.

@JulienMercille is lecturer at UCD and the author of The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland (2015, Routledge). His new book, Europe’s Treasure Ireland, will be out in July 2015.

Previously: Mercille On Monday

Pics: Talk Of The Town, via Irish Times and Getty