Workers Occupation of Reilly Bookbinders in Wicklow Pays Off

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The boss is shown the door and the workers take over. That’s what happened for a month at Reilly Bookbinders on the Murrough Industrial Estate in Wicklow town.The company had been in Wicklow for 30 years. Then four years ago it was taken over by Dunne and Wilson (Ireland) Ltd.. Two years later the building from which the company operated was sold to the Wicklow Enterprise Centre for over €900,000. It is understood to have been acquired by Dunne and Wilson for between €400,000 and €450,000. Then, this summer, boss Richard Geraghty told staff that the lease was up on August 1st and their work was being relocated to the Czech Republic.

He also announced the firm was insolvent and could not even pay them their statutory redundancy entitlements. All but one of the workers had at least 15 years service, some had over 20 years service and one had worked at Reilly’s for 28 years. Normally staff would expect to get several weeks pay per year worked as well as statutory payments as compensation for the loss of their jobs.

This is not the first time a business owned by Geraghty has gone down the toilet. European Binding Ltd, Venture Innovations Group, Impact Photographic, Impact Portraits, Alchemy Consulting, Rosen Health and Twofish Group have all bit the dust. Yet Geraghty never seemed to be out of pocket.Ten women and four men, all members of SIPTU, took over their workplace on July 18th and locked the boss out. They refused to allow any equipment or customers’ orders to leave the building, knowing that once everything valuable was gone they would have nothing to bargain with.

At a Labour Relations Commission meeting, the company representative, Stephen Holland (whose own Holland Photographic went bust last year), offered to sell two printers’ guillotines and ‘split’ the proceeds with the employees. This would have worked out at around a pathetic €1,000 per employee. The workers gave a unanimous two fingers to this excuse for an offer. In the end the occupation pushed the government’s insolvency fund to move faster than usual. The workers got their statutory payments of a week’s pay and two weeks for each year worked, their outstanding holiday pay – plus payment for the four weeks they were in occupation.

As Shane McKean of the Print division of SIPTU said “Here is a company that has received €900,000 from a state sponsored body for its premises, has been trading on state contracts for years and now wants the state to pay its redundancy bill. This takes the concept of ‘state aid’ to a whole new level.”

The rights of property came before the rights of workers, and no surprise. It’s called ‘capitalism’ because capital rules. But the workers, by standing up for themselves and being prepared to break the law by occupying, showed that courage can pay off. They got more money than if they had done nothing, and they got it quicker. Only when the working class takes control, when socialism/anarchism becomes a reality, will we be free of the terrible uncertainty that parasites like Geraghty can hold over us.


From Workers Solidarity 99, September October 2007

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