Initimidation of Marine Terminals workers denied

Siptu, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions officials and employees at a company involved in a strike at Dublin port have denied that they have harassed or intimidated staff who are continuing to work.

Earlier this week Marine Terminals Limited secured an interim injunction preventing the unions, several of their officials and a number of former and current employees due to an "unlawful escalation" of the strike.

Today at the High Court the defendants, while accepting that there has been "an escalated progression of the dispute," and have described other workers as "scabs" denied that they have engaged in unlawful industrial action.

They also denied that the term scab has been used in a threatening or intimidating manner.

Since early July, about 50 port operatives at Marine Terminals, who are members of Siptu, have been involved in a dispute with the company over redundancies and changes to workers terms and conditions.

On Tuesday Mr Justice Kevin Feeney granted Marine Terminals an interim injunction against Siptu, Ictu and 10 named individuals.

Those individuals include Ictu assistant general secretary Peter Bunting, Siptu officials Oliver McDonagh and Christy McQuillan, and the union's general secretary Joe O'Flynn.

Ken Fleming, an agent of the International Transport Workers Federation, and five current and former employees of the company were also named.

In its action the company claims the defendants tried to "coerce and intimidate" employees who were not on strike to cease working, by calling them scabs, and engaging in a 'name and shame' campaign.

It also claimed that group of protesters had travelled to Athy in Co Kildare, where some of the personnel who are continuing to work at Marine Terminals Ltd live, and put up posters and distributed fliers identifying the workers concerned.

Marcus Dowling Bl for the company said that the actions against workers, who are also Siptu members, were a breach of their constitutional right to earn a living.

During today's hearing to have the injunction made permanent until the full hearing of the action, the defendants, represented by Richard Kean SC, denied any wrongdoing.

In affidavits to the court the union officials said they had not suggested, encouraged, or assisted in the distribution of the flyers that were put up in Athy.

However two of the striking workers, James and Nigel Loughman, admitted putting up posters in Athy on August 27 last.

In his affidavit Mr James Loughman of Templeroan Avenue, Dublin 16 said that he had not been encouraged or directed to do so by the union officials.

It was stated that it was an expression of his constitutional rights to express his opinion. Mr Nigel Loughman, Shanagarry, Miltown, Dublin 6, the court heard, also admitted putting up posters in Athy.

The court heard that the fliers with a photograph of a Marine Terminals employee who continued to work were posted up around that person's home town.

The flyer contained the words "Wanted for Crimes Against Irish Workers," and the names of a number of other employees who have continued to work.

It was further denied that an employee who has continued to work was verbally threatened in a garage by a number of strikers and that the unions had supported a mass trespass that occurred on Marine Terminals premises on August 24 last.

Mr Justice Feeney adjourned the case to next Thursday. The interim injunction is to remain in place until then. The judge also told the parties that by Thursday he wished to see a number of things clarified.

The judge said this includes what is the defendants' concept of the "name and shame" campaign, video footage taken during protests that occurred at Marine Terminals premises, and clarification about the distribution, source and purpose of the Athy posters.

Under the terms of the order granted on Tuesday, the defendants and their agents cannot intimidate, harass or threaten any persons employed by the company who have continued to work during the strike.

The company are further seeking orders to bring proceedings aimed at restraining the defendants from referring to any person at the firm who continued to work as being a scab, or from interfering with their constitutional rights to work.

The company is also seeking orders prohibiting the defendants from distributing fliers or publishing personal details of, and from continuing a campaign of naming and shaming, those employees who continue to work.

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