Workers brave cold to fight for final pay
Published 28/11/2007 | 08:24
Life for the disgruntled group of former Reid Transport workers, who have been protesting outside the Cloughmills depot since the company went into administration, has not been easy over the past week.
Besides enduring freezing temperatures and lashing rain over the past six days, each one has been facing the uncertainty of where their next pay cheque will come from and the prospect of a very bleak Christmas indeed.
Yet despite this, they remain defiant, determined to hold their barricade until they get what they are owed and determined to support each other, at all costs.
Neil Adams (21), who has lived in the area most of his life, has been at the picketline since Thursday night.
He is among a small group of younger former employees who have put their personal circumstances aside to support the wider cause.
Around 100 workers have gathered at the Ballycregagh Road site since the blockade began on Thursday, but only a handful have remained almost full time, taking turns to watch the gates at night and ducking home to get changed.
Mr Adams explained most of the men had family commitments and have spent the past week looking for work, hoping to salvage their Christmas but had all stopped by to relieve the regulars as much as they could.
"A few of us, who still live at home, decided that we would stay here and keep watch," he explained.
"A lot of the guys have been trying to find work and because we don't have mortgages and things we said we would stay here as much as we could to support our colleagues.
"All of the workers are owed at least two weeks pay and even though the administrators have said redundancies will be paid to those who are entitled to it, that cuts out most of the workforce. "About 75% of the guys have been here less than two years which means they will get nothing. It's a complete sham."
Last night administrators PriceWaterhouseCoopers said that arrears of wages up the statutory limits of £310 per week will be paid to workers before Christmas and that redundancy payments will be made to eligible workers.
But the news is of little comfort to the majority workers who do not qualify for redundancy.
Mr Adams said most have been working at the site for less than two years and some have no paperwork to prove that they worked there.
He also claimed that a number of workers, including himself, no longer had their forklift licenses because the company failed to renew them, even though they had been operating the vehicles for the last six months.
"They are supposed to be renewed every three years but they weren't," he claimed.
"I think mine has been out-of -date for the last six months. Some of the migrant workers did not even have forklift licenses. They would not have even known.
"How are they going to get work now. Most of them do not speak enough English."
Despite the recent hardship, Mr Adams said the community has been very supportive.
Yesterday, a slow, steady stream of supporters stopped by dropping off replenishments and firewood to keep the protesters warm.
It is this type of support which Mr Adams said encouraged the group to continue with their quest.
"My dad and all has been very supportive as with the rest of the community," he said. "We want what we are owed and we are going to stay here until something gives."