Gama workers refuse to halt protests

HUNDREDS of Gama workers in Dublin yesterday refused to return to work as SIPTU demanded the Government step in to prevent the threatened repatriation of Turkish employees.

The continuing protest follows an initial 400-strong march by Gama workers on Monday and another demonstration on Tuesday in which hundreds of employees from Clare and Dublin gathered at the firm’s largest operation - a power plant in Tynagh, Co Galway.

As it emerged that Gama can send workers home, despite a Government ban on repatriations, SIPTU construction branch secretary Eric Fleming called on Enterprise Minister Micheál Martin to intervene until outstanding issues of concern are addressed.

“Should the company arbitrarily go ahead with their threat to remove 150 workers from the pay-roll, the union will be asking the Construction Industry Federation to call on CIF member companies to find jobs for these highly skilled workers,” he said.

At a crunch meeting with Gama management today SIPTU, and representatives of the Gama worker’s action group, will demand that alleged intimidation against employees and their families in Turkey be curtailed.

“The workers say that since their protest started on Monday they have been inundated with calls from their families at home in Turkey complaining of a high level of intimidation,” Mr Fleming said.

In addition, assurances will also be sought on how workers will be given access to previously unknown accounts in the Dutch-based Finansbank.

Four workers, brought to Amsterdam last week by Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins, have now had their money transferred from Finansbank.

However, the bank’s accounts are thought to hold anywhere up to €40 million in lost wages belonging to 2,000 past and present Gama employees.

A spokesman for Finansbank last night refused to reveal how many workers have so far sought access to their funds. However, the bank will send a representative to Ireland should the need arise.

Meanwhile in a statement released last night, Gama confirmed that workers who were refusing to work had occupied a section of its Balgaddy construction site in Dublin.

The firm said employees not participating in the protest had initially been locked in while others had left as soon as the industrial action began.

“The company is greatly concerned for the welfare of the employees occupying the site and sympathises with their concerns and fears. These fears and expectations have been heightened by parties outside of Gama, who now exercise a high degree of control over these workers. Regrettably this is inhibiting the company’s ability to deal with the workers’ concerns,” the statement said.

Meanwhile Mr Martin was last night still awaiting clarification from Gama on the repatriations and allegations of intimidation against employees.

A spokeswoman for Mr Martin said it would be preferable if difficulties were resolved before anyone leaves Ireland.

“We had hoped that anyone who is owed money would be sorted out before they leave,” she said.

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