THE continued failure of the Rehab Group to honour an agreement over redundancy payments to 38 vulnerable workers in Limerick was the subject of a Senate debate yesterday.
The issue was raised by Limerick Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan who said that the workers were made redundant in April of last year and since then have been trying to secure their redundancy payments in line with a collective agreement that has been in place for over 30 years.
“Last week SIPTU won a significant victory at the Labour Court. After the third and final round of hearings, it determined that it could “find no clear and undisputed basis not to uphold the existing collective agreement and consequently recommended that it be respected,” Senator Gavan explained..
“In April 2021 when the workers lost their jobs, instead of offering four weeks per year of service plus statutory uncapped as per the long-standing agreement with SIPTU, Rehab offered just two weeks plus statutory capped at one years salary.
“Workers described it as a slap in the face. One worker, who worked with the company for 30 years, said he should have been entitled to €60,000 redundancy but he was offered just over €21,000.
“Many of these workers include people with visual impairments, learning difficulties, and Down Syndrome. They lost their jobs in the middle of a pandemic. Some of these workers had given decades of service.
“Regrettably, Rehab Group management made a unilateral decision to depart from a well-established redundancy agreement with SIPTU, a decision that was totally unacceptable and an affront to the principles of equality and fairness.”
“A financial analysis of the Rehab Group, carried out earlier this year after an earlier Labour Court recommendation showed the Group has over €20 million in cash orcash equivalents, as well as €54 million in assets and can well afford to honour this agreement.
“The same analysis also highlighted expenditure of €813,000 in packages paid to senior management in 2018 and 2019, as well as another significant but unspecified amount paid in 2020.”
“The Minister must give a clear call on the management of Rehab to honour the existing redundancy agreement, as endorsed by the Labour Court,” Senator Gavan declared.
He was told by Minister of State Damien English that although recommendations from the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Labour Court were not legally binding, he would strongly encourage parties to engage in the industrial relations process in a constructive manner.
“It is my understanding that negotiations are still in play and I would hope that the parties could reach a solution. I know there were offers and counter-offers and I hope a solution can be found.
“We have the industrial relations infrastructure and it has to do its job. I’m afraid that beyond the statutory redundancy, we do not have a role. When it come to a commercial case, the State cannot compel a party to comply with a Labour Court recommendation,” Minister English added.