A PROTEST by workers at the Liebherr container crane factory, in Killarney, is to go ahead on Thursday at the opening of 3 Irish Open Golf Championship in the town, SIPTU confirmed yesterday.
The workers are up in arms because, they claim, the company is forcing them to take two days’ holidays so that parking facilities at the factory will be available to patrons attending the golf tournament.
Liebherr has said that, with large numbers of people at the tournament, the plant, which is directly across the road from the course, would not be able to function properly.
But, according to SIPTU official Donal Tobin, the company is in breach of a long-standing agreement by forcing the workers to take compulsory holidays.
Stating that very little had happened in the past week to resolve the dispute, he said the unions had agreed to a request to go to the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), but the company had declined.
The invitation to attend the LRC followed a request from Fáilte Ireland and the company’s reluctance to attend was in complete conflict with normal established practice, he added.
The unions have suggested the use of shuttle buses to take workers to and from the factory each day.
Killarney mayor Donal Grady, who has offered to mediate in the row, suggested two alternative car parks for the Liebherr workers.
The unions are expecting upwards of 200 Liebherr employees to take part in the protest which, Mr Tobin said, would be dignified and in keeping with long-established practice.
“There will be no inconvenience to anyone attending the event and we will not obstruct or offend anyone in any way. We will not break the law,” he said.
Mr Tobin also attacked Killarney Chamber of Commerce and Tourism over its criticism of the unions’ protest which, the chamber claimed, was being taken for “apparently insignificant reasons”.
He said the chamber’s attack was anti-worker and it should not have issued a statement without knowing the full facts of what was going on at Liebherr.
“This was a blatant attack on the workers by the chamber,” he said.
“Maybe the workers should now consider where to spend their money in future. After all, the workers patronise these people’s shops, hotels and other establishments.”
Meanwhile, excitement is building up in Killarney as preparations are being finalised for the four-day Open, last held in the town in 1992.
Organisers say crowds of 80,000 people are expected to attend the event – reckoned to be worth €30 million to the area during the August bank holiday.
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