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Social welfare staff are being told to refuse dole payments to 'locked out' Greyhound workers

A circular issued to social welfare staff advises them to reject applications for jobseeker’s payments.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

STAFF IN SOCIAL welfare offices in Dublin have been told to refuse any Greyhound worker who applies for jobseeker’s payments and is currently involved in the ongoing industrial dispute with the waste management company.

Workers represented by Siptu claim they are being locked out of their work at the company’s plant in Clondalkin over a dispute about wage cuts.

Greyhound claims staff have refused to work after they rejected a Labour Court recommendation that pay should be reduced.

TheJournal.ie has learned that earlier this month the Department of Social Protection informed staff working in local welfare offices to refuse applications for jobseeker’s payments by Greyhound workers involved in the dispute.

In a circular issued on 10 July by the Regional Support Unit staff were informed of a case where an employee involved in the dispute with Greyhound applied for jobseeker’s benefit in the Blanchardstown social welfare office.

The case was used as test case with a deciding officer determining on 9 July that the employee was out of employment for “reason of a stoppage of work which was due to a trade dispute”.

As a result this person was disqualified from receiving jobseeker’s payments until the still-unresolved dispute comes to an end. The circular says that the same should apply to any other workers in dispute with Greyhound who apply for jobseeker’s payments.

‘Crazy’

Siptu’s Owen Reidy, who represents Greyhound workers, said that the circular was “crazy” and said the union would be encouraging workers to challenge the decision.

“We would have advised people to sign on, we were giving out that advice,” he said, adding that the union had told Social Protection officials that the dispute was a lockout and not a strike.

The circular also tells staff who receive an application from a Greyhound worker to contact the waste management company to confirm whether the employee is involved in the trade dispute.

“If you have an application for a jobseeker’s payment from other employees at Greyhound, it is necessary to contact the employer to confirm whether the employee was involved in the trade dispute,” the circular states.

However the Department of Social Protection denied that the circular stated this.

In its response to queries, the Department also noted that the circular also told officials to inform dole applicants of their rights to appeal the decision.

It added: “The test case decision referred to in the Circular was made by an independent appointed statutory Deciding Officer.  Should a revised decision be made at any time in the future, a further Circular will issue to officials advising them of same.”

Call for withdrawal

However, Sinn Féin has called on the Tánaiste Joan Burton, who is the Social Protection Minister, to withdraw the circular.

Its party spokesperson on social protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh: “These workers were locked out by their bosses in Greyhound and now  a Department under the control of the Tánaiste and Leader of the Labour Party is directing that they be left destitute.”

The workers have been locked out at the waste disposal company since 17 June after management attempted to force workers to accept wage cuts of up to 35 per cent and have employed relief staff to carry out waste collections during the dispute.

Greyhound claim that the staff were not ‘locked out’ but refused to work after they rejected a Labour Court recommendation that pay should be reduced to bring it in line with industry standards.

Greyhound has since employed agency staff and claims there has been an increase in waste collection productivity.

The company did not respond to calls this week.

More: United Left TD Joan Collins protests ‘scabs’ working Greyhound trucks

Read: Greyhound “not interested in disputes”, SIPTU says workers “effectively on breadline”

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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