Over 70 former Thomas Cook workers are set for a bigger redundancy deal after dramatic dawn raid arrests yesterday ended an illegal four-day sit-in.
Sources said ‘everything is now back on the table' as the travel agency begins talks today with the Transport Salaried Staff's Association (TSSA) on the severance package. But the publicity achieved by the workers raised fears among employers that this could encourage a spate of sit-ins at recession-hit firms.
The new discussions come after the row over the company's plan to close two outlets took an ugly turn, as workers were forced to end their occupation of the firm's Grafton Street store.
Gardai moved in at 5am yesterday and detained 29 people who were at the premises.
The workers, their supporters and others had defied two court orders demanding that they vacate the building that has been occupied since Friday.
They later walked free from court without penalty, although Mr Justice Michael Beart said the rule of law “cannot be broken” as this would be a “recipe for anarchy”.
A crowd of supporters staged a large protest outside the Four Courts as the case was heard yesterday afternoon. Outrage was heightened after one of the workers went into labour following her arrest and later gave birth to a baby girl in the Coombe Hospital.
But sources last night predicted an enhanced severance package for the Thomas Cook workers will now equal at least six weeks’ pay per year of service. This will significantly enhance lump sums that were otherwise estimated to be as low as €9,000.
It is understood that the best paid manager would have got in the region of €80,000 under the company's most favourable offer of five weeks pay per year of service.
Thomas Cook was unwilling to go beyond this offer, but workers claimed the profitable company could manage eight weeks pay when it could afford to award its CEO Manny Fontenla Novoa over £7 million last year.
Unite, which has backed the workers, yesterday called the early morning removal of staff from the occupied premises “a dark stain on the history of industrial relations in Ireland”.
But Pete Constanti, CEO of Mainstream Travel at Thomas Cook UK and Ireland, described the workers' tactics as “shocking and outrageous”.
“Despite the shocking and outrageous actions and behaviour of staff and the TSSA union we are prepared to enter into further talks now the unlawful possession of our property has ceased,” he said.