Monday, May 14, 2012

Out of the past...

... or plus ca change...

Here's one from the archives... while not the same as some of the ongoing woes of workers in the sector it is an incident that might come to the Tánaiste's mind should he hear about current labour relations issues in the industry ....

Dáil Éireann - Volume 416 - 04 March, 1992 Adjournment Debate. - Closure of Dún Laoghaire Firm.

Mr. Gilmore: I thank you, Sir, for giving me this opportunity of raising this matter on the Adjournment this evening. The matter concerns 31 employees of a film animation studio in Dún Laoghaire who have not been paid wages since 22 October last and whose employment has now ceased.
Originally the film studio was known as Emerald City Animation Studio and closed down in March 1991. It was reopened in August 1991 by a Dorset-based company called Fairford Films, the directors of which are a Mr. Radford and a Mr. Andrew Holford. Thirty-one employees were recruited, most of them former employees of Emerald City Studios. At first the company appeared to be doing well but, towards the end of October last, their employees were informed there would be a delay in the payment of that week's wages, the directors stating they were experiencing difficulty in transferring funds from Switzerland and the United States. The staff expected this to be a short-lived problem. However, it dragged on for another week and yet another. The staff kept inquiring and the directors kept assuring them that the money was on the way. For example on 6 November last Mr. Radford wrote to the staff stating that he expected the problem to be resolved with the minimum delay. It dragged on to Christmas, staff continuing to work on the promise that they would get their wages. The studio did not re-open after Christmas. To date, the 31 employees have not been paid for their work between 22 October and Christmas.
I became aware of the problem in early January when I wrote to the Ministers for Industry and Commerce and Labour. I also wrote to the company. On 21 January last Mr. Holford replied to me that “solicitors acting for our funders confirm money will be available for us to pay staff before the end of this month”.
That was nearly six weeks ago and the staff have still not been paid. A similar promise was given recently to one of the local newspapers. Yet no money has been produced. It appears to me that the employees of this studio have been grossly exploited, the company having ripped off their labour for two months. The company have spun them a fallacious yarn about money being held up in Switzerland, the Isle of Man, Norway and the United States. The company have now disappeared.
I am now requesting the Minister for Industry and Commerce to take action under the Companies Act, to send in an Examiner, because I believe this studio is still a viable business concern. I appeal to him to take whatever action he can to ensure that the employees are paid the wages due to them, for which they worked between October and Christmas. This company, in quite a disgraceful, exploitative manner, have disappeared without paying the staff the wages for which they had worked for two months.

Following an LRC recommendation in the workers' favour (that was not honoured by the company) Mr Gilmore had represented the workers at a Labour Court hearing which confirmed the LRC recommendation (19th February, 1993). Somehow I doubt that the workers ever saw a penny of what they were owed.

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