THE Liebherr company in Killarney has claimed it is not breaching any agreement by obliging employees to take two days’ holidays during the four-day 3 Irish Open Golf Championship in the Kerry town.
Members of SIPTU and the TEEU have voted to protest on the first day of the Open on July 29 against the compulsory holidays, which arise from a decision by the company to make its car park available to patrons attending the tournament.
But Liebherr’s human resources manager Lorna Leen said car parking was not the “core issue”.
When the Open was last held in Killarney in 1992, she said both parties agreed to close the factory, because the 1991 Open had a severe impact on the company’s operations.
This year, she said, the company proposed a similar arrangement which would not have affected annual leave days. But the unions rejected all such proposals, the company claimed.
“The anticipated numbers attending the Irish Open in 2010 are on a much larger scale, while Liebherr Container Crane employee numbers have more than doubled in the interim,” Ms Leen said in a statement.
“The company informed the union representatives that the factory would not be able to function properly.”
However, SIPTU official Donal Tobin did not agree and insisted employees were willing to use shuttle buses from car parks to get to and from work. He also said the company’s decision would result in loss of income and major inconvenience for his members in planning for holidays in 2010.
Mr Tobin said the unions’ action was not a strike, but a dignified protest and inconvenience would not be caused to people attending the Open.
However, Killarney Chamber of Commerce and Tourism has strongly criticised the union decision to take such action for “apparently insignificant reasons”.
The chamber also hit out at “unreasonable claims and challenges” by the unions to Liebherr management plans.
Killarney mayor Donal Grady has offered to mediate in the dispute.
Anything that would upset plans for the Open, reckoned to be worth €30 million to the area, is viewed with serious concern in Killarney.
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