Stobart to ballot staff against for strike

Dublin, Ireland: Stobart Ireland, which supplies Tesco supermarkets and which is facing a one-day strike this week, has called in a retired assistant garda (police) commissioner to supervise a secret ballot of its workforce.

The British-based company is the main distributor for Tesco supermarkets in Ireland and a planned work stoppage by some of its 122 drivers this Thursday would potentially cause a major disruption to the retailer’s supply chain.

The highly unusual move will see the company ask its workers if they support a Siptu union strike on Thursday.

Stobart said it has received strong feedback from drivers that they do not wish to strike while other drivers have said they are not aware of the industrial action.  It now plans to ballot all 122 staff with proceedings overseen by a retired assistant garda commissioner Martin Donnellan.

The move follows a Siptu decision to take one-day industrial action in protest at what they say is the company’s refusal to discuss their grievances over excessive working hours and health and safety issues.

Sean Brogan, managing director of Stobart Ireland, said the company had outlined to drivers the serious difficulties the business now faces, as a result of Siptu’s decision to issue a strike notice.

“If we are unable to honour commitments to customers under existing structures, then I, as managing director, have a responsibility to find alternative means of doing so.  We are actively considering other options at present,” he said.

He said the company has spoken with as many drivers as possible over and “it is becoming increasingly clear that full support for Siptu’s decision to strike does not exist among drivers.  Many drivers have contacted us to say they were unaware of the Siptu decision to strike”.

“Therefore, to ensure that absolute clarity exists among everyone involved, we intend asking workers directly by secret and independent ballot of their intentions.  A very clear and straightforward ballot will be put before all drivers, asking them directly whether or not you support Siptu’s decision to strike,” he said.

“These are difficult economic times.  I firmly believe that it is not in anyone’s interest that we put our business and people’s livelihoods at risk by unnecessary strike action.”

He said Stobart Ireland would respect the outcome of the ballot.

However, Siptu sector organiser Karan O’Loughlin said Stobart could solve its industrial relations problems by just listening to its drivers and doing something about the health and safety concerns they are raising.

“What the company doesn’t get is that their drivers have no alternative but to stop work in order to highlight their grievances.  They are driving the length and breadth of the country and are tired from excessive working.  They know this can’t continue and so should Eddie Stobart,” she added.