Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A workplace occupation by employees of Thomas Cook Travel Agency was evicted by a police raid staged at 5:00 am this morning. The Thomas Cook occupation was one of the many such actions that are becoming increasingly common across the world as management takes advantage of the present economic crisis to attack their workers. Here's the story of the occupation from the Anarkismo website.
Thomas Cook workers arrested in Dublin occupation:
Tuesday August 04, 2009 14:56 by Jack Carrigan - WSM (personal capacity)
In the early hours of the morning dozens of Gardai (Irish police) sealed off a section of the city to smash their way into the Thomas Cook offices which were being occupied by the workers resisting the attempt by management to shut down the offices. The text that follows was written before the events of this morning,

Victory for the Thomas Cook Workers is a Victory for Us All
In a bid to close its outlets in Ireland, the Thomas Cook travel agents has begun by attempting to sack 44 workers at its two offices located on North Earl St. and Grafton St. in Dublin’s city centre.
Following the announcement to the workers of the planned closure of the outlets on September 6, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) balloted members of the union to strike. The proposed strike was approved with a 100% vote in favour.
The events that have led to the present occupation began on Friday July 31, with the revelation by the company’s UK management (brought in especially for the occasion) that the offices would be closing ahead of schedule. The North Earl St. staff were brought to the Grafton St. branch for a meeting with management. Thereupon the bosses produced a letter stating that the workers were out of the job and detailing their redundancy package (five weeks per year of service, dropping to two weeks unless workers accept their demands).
It was recalled by one of the Thomas Cook workers that someone shouted, “lock in,” at which point the workers rushed for the safe room within the building that the management could not enter for lack of the required security code.
The Occupation of the Thomas Cook offices on Grafton St. has been in progress since. On Saturday Thomas cook were granted an an interim injunction, this was upheld in a high court sitting on Monday afternoon. The workers, in defiance of the over paid judges, have voted to carry on the sit in.
The workers have been eating and sleeping in the building, with some taking it in shifts to return home to recuperate. According to a second Thomas Cook worker and TSSA member, “the atmosphere is good, people aren’t going anywhere. We’re tired and hungry, but we’re staying as long as it takes.” The workers have access to a television, however, they say it has barely been switched on as they are too excited to watch it. The occupying workers have been continuously supplied with food and drinks through an upstairs window, and small employers from the local area have also been providing some assistance.
The workers at Thomas Cook are fighting for a better redundancy package. Of the approximately €700,000 offered by the company, the workers are asking for an added €300,000. This is being asked in light of the fact that the Thomas Cook boss in Ireland, Manny Fontela-Novoa was given €7m during 2009, and company profits reached £400m profit in 2008.
Gerry Doherty, General Secretary of the TSSA has stated that “If Aer Lingus can give a redundancy package of nine weeks pay for each year, and Tesco seven weeks when it made 140 people redundant at Dun Laoghaire, Thomas Cook, whose chief executive, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, received a bonus of £5 million, can certainly afford a decent redundancy package for its workers.” Mr. Doherty, while representing the workers at the High Court today is also himself expected to face charges by the Gardaí for allegedly physically removing a photographer for the Thomas Cook company from the premises on Grafton St.
The occupying workers have been supported by most of the Left, with members of Eirigí, the Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party, Sinn Féin and the Workers Solidarity Movement present at varying times since the start of the occupation. The culmination of this support, so far, has been the solidarity demonstration on August 3. Attended by approximately 200 people members of the Left, trade unions and the general public, the demonstration was prepared in order to obstruct a High Court order for the workers to leave the premises by 2pm on the day. While over 100 people remained on the demonstration throughout the afternoon in order to blockade the office from invading court bailiffs and Gardaí, the state’s agents failed to arrive.
According to demonstrator and member of the Workers Solidarity Movement, Donal ó Fállúin, “the fighting spirit of the Irish workers is alive and well. It’s still fresh in our minds how the Waterford Crystal workers took action, as well as the Ford / Visteon workers in Belfast, and now we see a similar occupation in the heart of the capital. It’s great to see people taking direct action and not relying on politicians.”
The workers at Thomas Cook in Ireland are simply demanding a larger redundancy package. The bosses, however, know that a victory for the workers means something greater than an additional €300,000, so they will fight the workers to the bitter end. They know that a victory for the Thomas Cook workers would set a precedent for workers everywhere, that you can take collective action and that direct action gets the goods. The workers are continuing their occupation until their demands are met. A victory for the Thomas Cook workers, is a victory for the working class and is a victory for us all.
The workers arrested at the occupation have all been released without penalty by a judge no doubt aware of the political implications of their case. Here's the story from the Irish Times via the Labour Start website.

Thomas Cook workers released:
Former staff of Thomas Cook who were arrested this morning after staging a sit-in at the company's shop in Grafton Street in breach of a High Court order have been released without penalty after they purged their contempt of court.

The protesters appeared before Mr Justice Michael Peart as a large number of supporters staged a protest outside the Four Courts.

Mr Justice Peart ordered that group of 27 workers, along with officials of the Transport Salaried Staff’s Association be released from custody. People before Profit Councillor Richard Boyd Barrett, Socialist Party Councillor Matthew Waine and PBP volunteer Sara O’Rourke were also freed. The judge said that while the breach of the order was unlawful, given the undertakings the court received he decided it was not necessary to commit anyone to prison or to impose a fine.

Mr Justice Peart, acknowledging that the workers had felt badly treated by their employers, said that in a democratic society the rule of law “cannot be broken” or else there would be “anarchy.”(and we can't have that now can we ?-Molly) However the Judge said that he was satisfied that the undertakings given by all parties was sufficient to purge their contempt.
Mr Justice Peart had ordered their arrest when they refused to obey a court order issued on Saturday for them to vacate the premises. The staff, who are in dispute with the company over a redundancy package, had ignored advice from lawyers and their union to comply with the terms of the court order.
They were arrested at the Grafton Street premises before dawn this morning and taken to the Bridewell Garda station.
A Garda spokesman confirmed that a woman who is eight months pregnant was the first person to be removed from the branch. She was admitted to the Coombe hospital on the advice of a doctor, where she later gave birth to a girl named Chelsea.
The ex-staff occupied the premises after being told by management on Friday afternoon that the shop would be shut immediately as a result of actions taken by the TSSA which included a public protest against the terms of a redundancy deal offered to 77 Thomas Cook staff.
The shop and another, Direct Holidays, a subsidiary in Talbot Street, were due to shut on September 6th, but the closure date for the Grafton Street branch was brought forward.
The staff were holding out for a redundancy deal which would give them eight weeks per year of service. The company is currently offering five weeks per year of service.
The former workers claim that Thomas Cook is a hugely profitable company which paid its chief executive £7 million last year and can afford an enhanced redundancy deal.
Unite - the union whose members staged a seven week occupation at Waterford Crystal earlier this year - called this morning’s removal of workers from the Thomas Cook store as “a dark stain on the history of industrial relations in Ireland.”
“These are ordinary working people standing up for their rights”, said Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly. “They have a right to be treated with respect and for their employer to hold to a standard of engagement that in this case has merely been cast aside.


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