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British Telecom using border to discriminate against southern workers

4 February, 2008

Sinn Féin Councillor tables emergency motion


Dublin City Sinn Féin Councillor Críona Ní Dhálaigh has attempted to put an emergency motion on the Clár for this evening’s meeting of Dublin City Council to call on British Telecom to treat all of its employees on the island of Ireland equally.  Currently British Telecom employs people in both the Twenty Six and Six County States but only recognises the rights of employees to join unions in the North.


Speaking before this evening’s meeting Councillor Ní Dhálaigh said, “Given the present climate of increasing cases of worker exploitation in Ireland it is vital that the right to trade union membership is a right for all who wish to join unions as enshrined in our constitution.  The company insists on treating its workers in the South of Ireland as second class citizens by denying them one of the basic human rights – trade union representation.


“BT Ireland made a business decision some time ago to run its operations on an all-island basis.  Thirty two counties and one business equal one big happy
family, or so the theory went.  A big family perhaps, but not everyone got to
eat at the same table. 


“Workers in the south decided that if the business was
not going to recognise the border for business reasons then the border should
not affect how it treats its staff.  Many decided to join the Communications
Workers' Union (CWU) and to ask that they be given union representation like
their colleagues in the North who were in the Communications Workers' Union
(UK).  The response was a firm no.  Whilst BT employees in the North
enjoy the benefits of union recognition, their colleagues across the border
were told that they cannot have a union represent them for collective

“The CWU has tried to resolve the matter formally and informally with BT
management but to no avail.  The company has shown very little respect for the industrial relations machinery of the state in the South and has broken
promises that were made in the Labour Relations Commission to give vital salary information to its own staff. There is still no sign of information that should have been shared with staff in October.

“It is somewhat surprising that an iconic symbol of the British public sector
such as BT has come to symbolise such a blatant double standard.  In 1998 the Good Friday Agreement promised closer ties between people living north and south of the border and introduced a raft of measures that were aimed at
improving, among other things, business ties on an all-island basis.  These are measures that BT is keen to exploit in the interests of its business but not in the interests of its staff it seems.

“The undeniable fact is that the strategy BT seems intent on pursuing is: one
island, one business, two standards and as such staff in the south feel they
are being discriminated against on the basis of their location on the island.” ENDS

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