Checkout at 40: Dunnes Henry Street: Strike Action Escalates (Sep 1985)
Published on Jun 23 2015 7:29 AM
This year, Checkout commemorates its 40th anniversary under its current ownership, and with this in mind, every week, Retail Intelligence is going to ‘reel in the years’ and publish a story from our extensive archives. This article from September 1985 examines an escalation in picketing at Dunnes Stores, one year on from the South Africa protests.
The passing of the first anniversary of the strike outside Dunnes Henry Street over the handling of South African fruit has brought renewed and more determined industrial action from the individuals involved and the union, which has declared it official, the IDATU.
The escalation began with early morning picketing in order to disrupt supplies to the store, and has thus far led to the store’s occupation.
This resurgence is linked to the Dunnes Stores Support Group, a gathering of civil rights leaders and left-wing groups, such as Sinn Fein and The Communist Party of Ireland.
The group’s meetings are held in the offices of the IDATU and are chaired by that organisation’s Brendan Archbald. This group meets every week and is coordinating aspects of the strike.
Initially, their actions were to prevent deliveries to Henry Street with pickets appearing outside the store at 5 or 6 am. While they failed to stop deliveries, Dunnes was said to be have been extremely harassed by the action. It was then decided to hold a 26-hour picket lasting from midday to 2 pm the following afternoon and deploying some 50 pickets. This action was extremely successful and few, if any, supplies got through.
The success of this picketing led to another 26 hour action being called and it was during this that Brendan Archbald and five other picketers, taking advantage of a Dunnes staffer’s difficulty with a door, managed to occupy the store. Two guards were later called, and the occupiers removed.
The escalation one year after the strikes seems to have caught the Dunnes’ management on the hop. In fact, executives at the top level didn’t even know the Support Group had been formed. For their part, the Support Group has vowed to escalate the strike even further, though Brendan Archbald “had nothing to say” to Checkout when we contacted his office.
The strikers have failed, however, to receive support from other stores in the Dunnes empire. Furthermore, their position as regards demands seems to have moderated recently; they will now accept other staff handling the forbidden fruit even if they will not.
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