The treatment of Council staff at City Hall has been condemned by a Sinn Féin councillor.
Cllr Cathal Ó Conchúir criticised the conduct of some councillors when dealing with employees at City Hall and said that respect, equality and dignity at work are hugely important issues – particularly inflection and projection of voice when dealing with staff.
He told of how in his two years as a city councillor, he had witnessed “perceived intimidation” of full-time workers with the Council.
“We have to be cognisant as councillors of respect of equality at work.
“There is too much intimidation of people and too much shouting at people who work here on a nine to five basis,” said Cllr Ó Conchúir.
He was speaking after a presentation to Galway City Council by Fiona Dunne of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
Cllr Billy Cameron (Lab) denounced attitudes towards trade unions in the business community and slammed employers who refuse to recognise them
“The power of unions has been decimated – collective bargaining has been diminished by multinationals; I believe in a living wage and the onus is on us as public representatives to respect the dignity of workers,” he said.
Cllr Cameron also referred to the treatment of workers by Samuel Kingston Construction while the regeneration of Eyre Square was taking place – something which he believed the council should ensure never happens again.
A motion supporting the introduction of a living wage of €11.50 per hour, proposed by Cllr Níall McNelis (Lab), was passed by council.
The motion states: “This council supports the introduction of a Living Wage to all directly engaged, contracted and sub-contracted staff.”
It also recognises the importance of collective bargaining and negotiation with trade unions.
Cllr Frank Flannery (Fine Gael) believed that while the living wage was appropriate, he said it should be an aspiration for start-ups.
“There are conditions where businesses can’t afford to pay €11.50 per hour – sometimes there has to be an exception.
“We have to leave the door open for those in that position,” said Cllr Flannery.
In response to this, Ms Dunne argued that businesses are not the only ones struggling, with some families choosing between eating and sending their children to school.
“We do understand that businesses have their difficulties but there are also struggling families,” she said.
Dunnes Stores workers were highlighted by many councillors and Ms Dunne as an example of the poor treatment of workers and interaction with unions.
Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind) noted that Lidl had started paying employees the living wage and asked the ICTU representative if there had been a similar move from Irish companies like Dunnes.
Ms Dunne informed the council that despite a wage increase a year ago, there had been no improvement of conditions for the Irish supermarket chain’s employees.
“In terms of Dunnes Stores, they increased the hourly rate a year ago but they have reduced the hours of employees there – they don’t talk to unions and don’t go to the Labour Court,” said Ms Dunne.