Matt Carthy (second from left) with SIPTU members at the Kerry Foods plant in Carrickmacross.
Kerry Foods workers in Carrickmacross began the first of three one day strikes on Tuesday this week - leading Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy to urge the company to implement a voluntary redundancy scheme.
SIPTU members at the plant commenced a 24-hour work stoppage on Tuesday in a dispute resulting from an attempt to make 31 workers redundant without agreement. There are over 300 SIPTU members employed in the plant, which employs 416 people.
Carthy visited SIPTU members at the factory as the strike began and said, "SIPTU members at Kerry Foods in Carrickmacross began a 24-hour work stoppage this morning over efforts force redundancy on 31 workers.
"Two other stoppages are scheduled to take place on Tuesday 13th and Tuesday 20th March. I had previously called on the company to use all avenues to avoid any redundancies if at all possible.
"In written correspondence and in phone conversation with a senior official in the company I further requested of Kerry Group, in the event that the loss of 31 jobs is unavoidable, to put in place a voluntary redundancy scheme as opposed to forced redundancy," he continued.
"I also made Sinn Féin’s position clear that there must be a fair and adequate redundancy package for those workers who may wish to leave.
“Kerry Foods is held in high esteem in Carrickmacross and surrounding areas and with a little bit of goodwill I believe Kerry Group could limit the potential for distress and disruption among workers and the local community.
"Kerry Group made profits of €750million in 2016. There is certainly the capacity to be imaginative and fair in their response to this issue. SIPTU representatives have made it clear that they are available to meet with the company at any time to discuss a fair resolution to this dispute.
Kerry Foods has said that it can only offer voluntary redundancy in some cases - not all. It is looking to streamline it's operations.
The factory, based in the IDA Industrial estate in the town, makes frozen prepared meals for export to the UK. It is understood the implications of Brexit is playing a role in the company's decision.
In a statement made when the decision to make 31 staff redundant was first announced in January, they said no other plants are under threat and that Carrickmacross is “uniquely vulnerable."
Carthy also called on Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys to intervene in the stand off between employers and SIPTU members.