Friday, July 27, 2007

Fighting Outsourcing

The mild-mannered employees of Reilly Bookbinders are not taking their redundancies lightly. In an effort to cut labor costs, Dunne and Wilson Group, owners of the bookbinding firm, are moving operations to the Czech Republic, where workers are paid less per hour.

Fourteen people were employed in the business, which has been declared insolvent. After putting in twenty-five or thirty years in binding books, they find themselves without jobs and with few prospects. There's not much call for high paid workers in a labor intensive field. And because the company is insolvent, there's no money left at the end to make redundancy payments.

There's only so much that the Department of the Taoiseach, University College Dublin, Cork and Galway, and the Labour Court are willing to pay to get their documents bound. When an Irish firm paying Irish workers a legally mandated wage have to compete against Eastern European companies that pay less, there's no question that the locals are going to lose -- even though they are binding books for government entities.

The former employees of Reilly Bookbinders are staging a sit-in protest, not leaving until they get something to tide them over as they land out on the street without work. The Irish Print Group division of the labor union is calling for a liquidator to be brought in, to sell off assets so that some funds are generated to fund the redundancy payments, but Dunne and Wilson have every intention of packing up the bookbinding equipment and taking it all to the Czech Republic and its cheaper labor pool.

In the meantime, the people losing their jobs are holding the building to ransom, as it were, by refusing to allow any equipment to be taken out, and barring the release of customer orders. They are fighting against Dunne and Wilson's position on the issue, with the workers insisting that they are entitled to severance pay and the bosses claiming that they are not responsible for paying because the firm is insolvent. The redundancy money is just another debt that can't be paid for lack of cash.

In the end, however, there will no longer be a bookbinder in Wicklow town and fourteen older people will be out of work. A local official in a Czech town will trumpet his success at attracting jobs and the people of the town will be thrilled to have jobs that pay anything when all they had before was nothing. Down the road, they'll grumble for higher wages, better benefits, and before long the jobs will be packed up and moved to the next country that promises lower labor costs to the employer.

1 comment:

O hAnnrachainn said...

30 July 2007 -- After the Labor Relations Commission appointed an assessor to calculate the value of Reilly Bookbinders' assets, the owners decided that they wouldn't be moving to the Czech Republic after all. Are they not so insolvent after all as well?