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28 May 2022

Sea fisheries staff to strike in Killybegs from midnight

Unions announces details of action involving inspectors and clerical staff

Sea fisheries staff to strike in Killybegs from midnight

Killybegs

Members of the Fórsa trade union at the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) will take part in a 24 hour work stoppage from midnight tonight (Wednesday). 

The action, by 110 inspectors and clerical staff, will affect operations at six sea fishery harbours - Killybegs, Co Donegal, Ros-a-Mhíl, Co Galway, An Daingean (Dingle), Co Kerry, Castletownbere, Co Cork, Dunmore East, Co Waterford and Howth, Co Dublin.

The union served notice of the industrial action last week, when it informed SFPA management that it was reactivating industrial action which had previously been suspended in March 2021, when the parties had agreed to attend a reconciliation process under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), in a dispute involving the findings of an independent review of the SFPA carried out by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC).

Fórsa - the largest public service union in Ireland - had agreed a proposal with management to undertake a joint approach to implementing a series of 47 recommendations emerging from the review. 

However, management at the SFPA has sought to implement and impose these recommendations without the input of the staff representatives in the agency, which is necessary to ensure the joint approach agreed by all parties.

Fórsa members at the SFPA, who are represented by the union’s Marine branch, voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in February 2021.

Planned industrial action in March 2021 was suspended, and meetings took place as part of the WRC reconciliation process in March, April and May 2021 without resolution.

By agreement, the matters in dispute were referred to the Labour Court, and a hearing took place in June 2021. The Court ultimately advised the parties that the issues in dispute could only be resolved through a binding arbitration, which both parties assented to.

However the arbitration process, scheduled for July 2021, was disrupted at the last minute when the SFPA informed the Court that any outcome would need to be approved by the Department of Public expenditure and Reform. Consequently, the Labour Court was unable to assist any further.

Fórsa has confirmed that, following the collapse of the industrial relations process last year, SFPA management has continued to alter core working conditions and agreements unilaterally.

The SFPA has sought a commencement of a new industrial relations process, which the union says is an attempt by management to frustrate the state industrial relation resolution process it had previously committed to.

Consequently, Fórsa has issued notice of industrial action as follows: 

-A 24-hour work stoppage by all Fórsa members commencing from midnight Wednesday 19th January to Thursday midnight 20th January

-A 48-hour work stoppage by all Fórsa members from midnight Tuesday 25th January to midnight Thursday 27th January.

Fórsa has advised the SFPA that it reserves the right to issue notice of further industrial action.

The union has further advised that a commitment from SFPA, without any preconditions, to return to a process of binding arbitration by the Labour Court, would have a significant chance of acceptance by Fórsa members and avoid the planned work stoppages.

Fórsa official Ian McDonnell commented: “This stoppage can be suspended immediately if the SFPA, which is a State agency, agrees to resolve the issue in the State’s leading industrial relations forum, on the basis of the Labour Court’s request that the outcome be binding on both parties.  

“Fórsa is not seeking a veto on the Labour Court process, and SFPA shouldn’t either. If the SFPA would accept that both sides should make their case in the Labour Court, and join us in accepting that the outcome will be binding, there would be no stoppage taking place,” he said.

In a letter to SFPA management yesterday (Tuesday), Fórsa confirmed the provision of essential cover in line with provisions in the Disputes Code of Practice (COP). These include cover in the event of a serious food safety emergency, exemptions for members at sea participating in EFCA patrols and administering payroll duties during the stoppage, as well as named points of contact In the event of emergencies.

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