Almost 6,000 workers at Irish department store chain Dunnes Stores are holding a one-day strike today in a dispute over pay and contracts.
The workers from 109 stores across the Republic of Ireland are demanding secure hours and earnings, job security, fair pay for all Dunnes workers and the right to trade union representation.
Muireann Dalton, a Dunnes shop worker from Newtownmountkennedy, said: “We don’t want to be out on strike today. None of us can afford to lose a day’s pay. But unfortunately our employer has left us with no other option so we’re asking the public to support our campaign for decency at work by not passing our pickets.
“All we’re asking for is the same rights that other retail workers have. We want secure hours so we can plan our lives and we want to have our voices heard. If it’s good enough for Tesco, Penneys, SuperValu and Marks & Spencer workers, then why shouldn’t Dunnes workers have the same rights?”
In November last year, a survey of 1,200 Dunnes workers found 76% were on a part-time flexible contract and 98% wanted more stable hours. Almost 90% of workers said they thought the hours were unfairly distributed, and 89% said it was common practice that new employees on lesser terms and lesser rates of pay received more hours than longer-serving staff on better terms.
Gerry Light, assistant general secretary of the Mandate trade union, which has organised the strike, said Dunnes workers had been threatened by their employer with cuts to hours, inconvenient rostering and job losses if the strike took place.
“Today’s action is regrettable, simply for the fact that it was so easily avoidable,” he said. “All Dunnes had to do was pick up the phone and agree to meaningfully engage. Sadly, they’ve chosen the route of conflict rather than behaving in a responsible manner. This is not how any employer should behave in 21st century Ireland.”
The Mandate union has accused Dunnes Stores of refusing to negotiate with it, industrial relations bodies, the Labour Relations Commission and the Irish Labour Court.
The strike is taking place across the 109 stores represented by the Mandate trade union and these stores remain open for normal trading.
Dunnes Stores has 155 stores in total, including 116 stores in Republic of Ireland, 23 in Northern Ireland, six in England, five in Scotland and five in Spain.
Dunnes has not yet responded to Drapers’ request for comment.