Protests have been called at short notice in Dublin and Belfast after 28 workers occupying Thomas Cook offices in Dublin's Grafton Street fighting jobs cuts were arrested this morning.
Protesting former workers at travel operator Thomas Cook in Dublin were arrested after after early-morning Garda raids for defying a court order to end a four-day sit-in at company premises in a dispute over redundancy payments.
Garda (Irish police) said 28 people were removed from a central Dublin office at 5am this morning, which management said last week was to be shut immediately, with the loss of 77 jobs. On Friday 31 July, Thomas Cook managers and security went to close down shops in Dublin at 10 a.m. Staff in two of the outlets then occupied their workplaces in response. The workers, some of whom are members of the Transport and Salaried Staff Association (TSSA), were served a court order to leave the premises but refused to do so.
15 Garda officers broke down the door of the premises this morning and forcibly removed the sacked workers, including a pregnant woman. The former workers will be taken to the high court, for breaching the court order demanding an end to the workplace occupation.
The context to this dispute is a company that seeks to consolidate and increase profits through the closure of more than 100 shops. The closures in Dublin fly in the face of these shops making more than £400 million profit during 2008.
Manny Fontenla-Novoa, CEO of Thomas Cook, recently received a 34% pay rise and a 7 million Euro bonus. This was his reward for boosting profits by making over 2,000 low paid workers redundant across the UK. Now he wants to do the same to his loyal Irish staff.
Reports quoted one of the occupiers, "As far as we're concerned, whatever happens in court we've won our battle," Wendy Alton, Thomas Cook branch manager, told Newstalk radio. "It was a peaceful protest, they had to physically remove us. We've made our stance and the people of Ireland and Dublin are 110 percent behind us."
The sacked workers have been demanding an improved redundancy package which would give them eight weeks per year of service, having dismissed an offer five weeks as "derisory". Supporters, workers, trade unionists and political activists are to protest in both Dublin and Belfast at 1pm today in support of those arrested and in solidarity with the sacked workers demands.