High Court Reporters
A company that provides mechanical engineering services to industrial sites around the country has launched a High Court action aimed at preventing its workers who are members of the Unite trade union from taking industrial action.
The action has been brought by Dublin-based HA O’Neil Ltd, which wants an injunction restraining its employees who are Unite members from engaging in industrial action which is due to take place on Friday.
The company is part of the Jones Engineering Group of companies and employs – mainly tradespeople such as plumbers and pipe fitters – over 400 people directly and over 1,100 indirectly or on a contract basis.
The dispute between the workers and the company centres around a demand for the restoration of a travel allowance of one hour pay that had previously been paid to employees.
The company claims that the proposed industrial action, including the placing of pickets at sites where it conducts its business are unlawful and says a valid trade dispute does not exist between it and the union.
As a result the company seeks various reliefs from the court including an injunction restraining the union and its members from going ahead with the planned industrial action.
The company’s action is also against several of its employees, who are alleged to be members and shop stewards of Unite.
The matter was briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Brian O’Moore on Wednesday.
The judge granted the plaintiff company, represented in the proceedings by Marcus Dowling SC, permission to serve short notice of the proceedings on Unite and the named individuals.
The allowance at the centre of the dispute was historically paid to workers, before the company claims that it was incorporated back into workers hourly pay over a decade ago.
The company claims that in 2019 trade unions ‘Unite’ and ‘Connect’ sought pay increase for its members and the restoration of the travel allowance.
While an agreement was reached on pay, the issue related to the allowance has not been resolved.
Last year the company claims that the Labour Court issues a recommendation that there was no reasonable basis to recommend concession of the union’s claims to have the travel allowance restored.
Last month it claims that Unite informed the company that its members who are employees of H A O’Neil had rejected the Labour Court recommendation.
The employees had also voted to take industrial action., including the withdrawal of labour and picketing places where the firm carries out its business.
In documents put before the court the company claims that Unite’s decision to take action is in breach of a no-strike clause contained in a Sectoral Employment Order (SEO) for companies, including H A O’Neil, that are members of the Construction Federations Mechanical Engineering and Building Services Contractors Association (MEBSCA)
It also claims that Unite is trying to circumvent the collective dispute resolution procedure under the SEO entered into with the members of the MEBSCA.
Members of the Unite and Connect Unions have not been collectively balloted on the Labour Court’s recommendation, the company claims.
It is also claimed by the company that the ballot conducted by Unite of its members who are employed at HA O’Neil is not valid, and is being carried out in breach of the 1990 Industrial Relations Act.
The company claims that Unite will conduct unlawful pickets at premises where it does business.
These sites include the Intel facility in Co Kildare, the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board in Rialto Dublin, Diageo Ireland at St James Gate in Dublin 8, and Pfizer’s facility in Clondalkin Dublin 22.
The company claims that if the injunction is not granted, and the strike goes ahead, its reputation and commercial interests will be damaged.