SHANNON Heritage staff working at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park are set to hold a lunchtime protest at 1pm on Friday, as there is still no clarity about the expected transfer to Clare County Council.
They are set to assemble close to the entrance to the facility and it’s expected that workers from other Shannon Heritage sites will be there in support. While many of the workers are members of SIPTU, Friday’s protest is not linked to the union.
As well as the lack of progress on the transfer, there is concern among workers that they could be laid off for the first three months of 2023, similar to what has happened to them in other years since the emergence of Covid-19.
There is also frustration that Shannon Heritage has not made itself available for a hearing on conditions at the WRC on a date next month, meaning the process has been delayed by eight days.
All staff are receiving or have received a pay rise, but it is understood that there is some disagreement of where a small number of workers should be on a pay scale.
Caroline O’Sullivan is one of the workers who will take part in Friday’s protest and she said the level of frustration among employees is very high.
“The staff are keeping things going, but we have no direction. We’re all hoping that the Council will take it over, but the money hasn’t been forthcoming yet. It’s not really to do with the Council though, it’s the way we’re being left to our own devices basically, there’s no direction from anybody.”
Staff have no certainty about work in the early part of 2023, she added.
“We are left out on a limb, we don’t know what’s going to happen, especially in the New Year. Are Shannon Group going to close in January, February and March as they’ve done in the last couple of years? That question has been asked and they haven’t said yes or no.”
Dolores Marren will also be part of the protest and she said that workers are very despondent.
“Morale is at an all time low as you can imagine, we kind of feel like pawns at this stage between everyone, committees and all the rest of it.”
The staff had felt the transfer process would be concluded long ago, she says.
“We thought it’d be done and dusted. Shannon Group seem to have washed their hands of us completely, there’s no great direction or communication coming from there. Clare County Council seem to be anxious to have us on their team but we don’t have any answers, Ministers aren’t committing to anything. There is an interdepartmental group meeting to see where they can find this money but Micheál Martin is fairly dismissive.”
Workers need some clarity about the start of 2023 and the long term future of the Shannon Heritage attractions, she feels.
“We’re anxious to know what’s happening from January to March, and to move this along in one direction or another.”
A spokesperson for the Shannon Airport Group has said: “We have worked closely with all parties to facilitate the speedy transfer of the Clare sites to Clare County Council.
“We are ready to complete the transfer. We understand that Clare County Council are in discussions with Government on the matter and unfortunately, we have no control over this.”
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.