Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Donegal rally for jobs and equality

1 September, 2004


A rally will take place on Saturday 25th September in the Market Square, Letterkenny under the theme of "Jobs and Equality for Donegal". The catalyst for the rally was the recent meeting between Donegal North East Sinn Fein and representatives of the remaining workers at the Unifi plant in Letterkeny. However, while Sinn Féin have initiated the plans for the rally, it is intended that the rally itself will be representative of all the political parties, trade unions, chambers of commerce, and unemployed groups in the county.

Sinn Féin Cllr Gerry McMonagle said:

"In the next week, we will be making contact with all the political parties, trade unions, chambers of commerce, and unemployed groups in the county to ensure a collective voice for action on the jobs crisis in Donegal at the rally. A massive 5,000 jobs have been lost in the Donegal textile industry over the last eight years. These losses have hit hard in every corner of the county. Ballybofey, Inishowen, Letterkenny, Gweedore, Milford, and most recently Downings have all suffered.

"It is now six years since the much trumpeted Donegal Employment Initiative or 'Task Force report' which set a job creation target of 815 net gains for the following seven years. This excellent and daring report has been essentially binned by the job creation agencies and powers that be in Dublin. It is clearly time to protest. The concept of this rally followed our meeting with the workers representatives at Unifi. The workers anger was palpable and we felt that our party had a responsibility to set the train in motion in regards to a public day of protest. From this point on however, we would see this initiative as a collective one with the other political parties, trade unions, chambers of commerce, and unemployed groups in the county.

UNIFI REFUSE MEETING WITH SINN FÉIN

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's request for a meeting with Unifi, in relation to the party‚s concerns about the ongoing redundancy negotiations has been refused by the company. The company have said that they will only deal with trade unions in relation to the redundancy negotiations. However, Donegal North East Sinn Féin representative, Cllr Pádraig Mac Lochlainn put his party's views to a senior Unifi official during the course of a telephone conversation.

Cllr Mac Lochlainn said:

"I put to the company the reality that during our meeting with the workers representatives, they acknowledged that Unifi had been a good employer in relation to wages, overtime, and workers facilities at the plant. I urged Unifi to leave Letterkenny with that reputation intact by honouring the reasonable request by the remaining workers for a redundancy package of five weeks for every year of work. Three from the company and two statutory.

"I stated that Sinn Féin were not trying to replace the trade unions in speaking for the remaining workers during redundancy negotiations or at any other time. However as public representatives who have been lobbied extensively by the workers at Unifi, it is our duty to make representations on behalf of them. The reality is that it is well within the company‚s gift to grant the extra redundancy package that the workers seek. For example, we estimate that it would take about 7% of the profit Unifi will accrue on their remaining assets at Ballyraine to bridge the gap between the redundancy that they are offering and the redundancy the workers seek. We would appeal to Unifi, who have been a good and fair employer to reward the remaining workforce who have stayed with the company right till the end because of assurances given. These workers will now enter a barren economic environment of high unemployment and will need as much support as possible to bridge the gap to new employment." ENDS

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