Several welfare staff at The Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland have started a series of two-hour rolling strikes over plans by the organisation to make 16 staff redundant.
The Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) said its members will also picket the registered charity’s headquarters in Liscarroll, Mallow, County Cork, during the industrial action, which will occur every second day until May 30.
“The union has tried unsuccessfully to engage the company in discussions as to the reasoning behind the decision to make the 16 welfare staff redundant,” SIPTU organiser Eddie Mullins said.
“This organisation is in receipt of substantial funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and it is unacceptable that it is then unwilling to utilise the industrial relations mechanisms of the state.
“We believe that the company is in no financial difficulty and is simply attempting to replace qualified animal welfare staff with voluntary workers.
“The workers were left with no option but to take strike action and will escalate the dispute if it is required.”
The sanctuary said in a statement that it was saddened over the industrial action.
It said it had consulted staff throughout an ongoing review and restructuring of the charity’s welfare operations in the UK, Ireland and continental Europe, the changes from which will come into effect next month.
“The purpose of this welfare review is to improve the effectiveness of key welfare tasks and work together across the organisation to help more donkeys and mules in need and to better promote their welfare,” the charity said.
“Unfortunately, a number of redundancies were unavoidable in the welfare team as a result of this restructuring, although The Donkey Sanctuary has encouraged staff to consider alternative vacancies within the charity.”
The charity said it had acted in good faith and consulted on every stage of the process with the welfare team.
“We believe that the planned industrial action is entirely inappropriate to the current situation, in consideration of the open and transparent manner with which we have engaged with the welfare team to date on the issue of the upcoming redundancies.
“We have facilitated and encouraged two-way communication, not only through our employee elected representative staff forum group, but also at many team and individual meetings.
“We believe that the action being proposed now by SIPTU and the negative publicity which will surround this action, could be damaging for the long-term future of our Irish operation and could have a negative impact on its ability to help donkeys in need in the future.
“It is disappointing that staff have proceeded directly to industrial action without first availing of internal appeal mechanisms.
“Notwithstanding this, we are happy to facilitate further discussions with members of the welfare team in order to clarify any queries or issues they may have with the process.”