Union lodges complaint over Stobart Ireland anti-strike ballot

Dublin, Ireland: A ballot of Stobart Ireland drivers conducted yesterday on whether or not they wished to support the SIPTU-organised strike this week, found 12 of 122 drivers eligible to vote, in support.

Out of the total 16 drivers were absent due to either sickness or holiday, meaning 106 were available to vote and 58 drivers voted – 12 in support and 45 voted against strike action.  One vote was spoiled.

A spokesperson for Stobart Ireland said: “This vote was called to clearly establish whether or not drivers wished to strike.  Only 12 drivers, some 10% of the total workforce, voted to strike.  A significant majority, 38% have voted against strike action.

“This is an emphatic outcome and confirms what we have been hearing from drivers over recent days – that the vast majority do not wish to strike.”

Stobart Ireland said it respect the wishes of the majority of drivers.  It also said it would be an independent and transparent vote, with all details of the vote made known to drivers and the wider public.

“Given this clear and comprehensive message from drivers, we are urging SIPTU to call off its strike action.  Rather than threaten livelihoods, the focus should be on productive engagement between management and staff, as has been the case to date,” the spokesperson said.

Siptu has lodged a complaint with the Health and Safety Authority, accusing Stobart Ireland Drivers Services of coercing its workers to participate in a hastily arranged ballot yesterday.

Siptu has organised a work-stop to take place on Thursday to highlight grievances with working hours and other health and safety concerns.  If the firm’s 122 drivers participate, it could prove difficult for Stobart’s customers. The British-based company is the main distributor for Tesco Ireland so the strike could cause major disruption to its supply chain.

The trade union says that the number of those balloted by the company yesterday represents less than half of the 122 drivers working for Stobart.  According to Siptu, 63% of drivers support the 24-hour strike over the alleged refusal of the company to deal with roster and fatigue issues.  Sector organiser Karan O’Loughlin has told the HSA that the company contacted drivers to instruct them to return to work when they finished their shifts to vote in the ballot.

She said this disturbed the drivers’ necessary rest periods. “Despite a week long campaign of intimidation which included threats of dismissal and lay off the majority of drivers decided to stay away from the vote,” she said.

“If as much energy was spent by Stobart management on engaging with the problems of fatigue experienced by these drivers this action on Thursday would not be necessary. It is clear that the majority of drivers want the company to hold discussions with them in order resolve the problems,” O’Loughlin said.

O’Loughlin also called on Tesco, the company’s biggest customer, to comment on Stobart’s treatment of its drivers.