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The world of workers: A small but useful example of union power September 1, 2020

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

Here’s a small tale that is educative and which appeared in the Examiner at the weekend.

Staff at a popular tourist attraction in Cork have won a long-running battle to have toilet facilities installed in their place of work.

Prior to this kiosk staff for Spike Island Tours on Cobh pier were forced to visit a local shop or hotel to use the bathroom because management refused to provide any facilities. They were also told that they could access running water from a tap on the pier in the town which is normally used to wash fish.

Keep in mind they had been told that toilet facilities would be built in the new kiosk, but no such facilities were provided when it was installed.

Worse was to come:

Two of the women complained to the Health And Safety Authority that the conditions breached safety at work legislation, but despite a visit to Cobh from a HSA inspector in early July, the staff were not interviewed nor informed about the outcome of their complaint.

Staff were told by management that the HSA “has confirmed to the SIDC (Spike Island Development Company) that the measures provided by the SIDC regarding facilities in Cobh for staff are acceptable. The matter is now closed.”

The staff were then told they must sign a contract agreeing to access bathroom facilities in the town’s public library or public toilets.

Thankfully the women contacted Unite and within 48 hours a portaloo was installed on the pier. The role of the HSA is most interesting in this – almost needless to say it won’t comment on the matter. Moreover:

In response to questions over compliance with health and safety law and staff conditions, a statement was issued which says the company does not comment on matters relating to individual staff members’ terms and conditions.

“The board is fully committed it the workplace health and safety of all its staff, have not breached any health and safety requirements and continue to work with staff to ensure a safe environment for all.”

Brendan Ogle of Unite makes the extremely pertinent point that particularly in the context of the pandemic “The public has to be reassured that when workplaces are opening up (after the lockdown) they have to be safe and that did not happen to these workers.”

But isn’t it indicative of how large and small struggles for workers persist. Worth also keeping in mind that the island is owned by Cork County Council. Anyone know the relationship between the tours and CCC?

I’ve visited there myself – it’s a fantastic place to go – and had the tour of the Fort and island by the guides and they were very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They deserved better than the shabby treatment outlined above and fair dues to them and Unite for resolving this.


1. NFB - September 1, 2020

I once applied for a seasonal job in Maynooth Castle, and the first thing they said in the interview was “There are no toilets”. The nearest one that you could use was in the college, but of course you can’t leave your post for the time you would need to get there! No solution was offered, except for “You could go across to the pub” on the other side of the streets, but of course pubs aren’t exactly welcoming to people looking to use the facilities without payment. Never got the job, but presumably would have had to invest in a bottle, or maybe suffered some dehydration.

Oh, and it’s an OPW site.

Liked by 3 people

WorldbyStorm - September 1, 2020

It’s a small humiliation. I can’t see any other reason. They can’t be pushed to fix it and that demnostrates a degree of contempt for those who work there.

Liked by 1 person

2. 34theorchard1 - September 1, 2020

Story in the paper this morning of teachers marking copies and eating lunch in their cars, Staffroom’s having been converted to classrooms.


WorldbyStorm - September 1, 2020

Heard similar from teachers. The premium on space is so high in schools it’s no surprise.


3. Ian McGahon - September 27, 2020

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