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Last Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005, 21:23 GMT
Irish protest over ferry dispute
Protests in Dublin
Protests were held to support the Irish Ferries workers
Thousands of people have demonstrated in the Irish Republic to support ferry workers in dispute with their company over plans to introduce foreign labour.

Irish Ferries crews have refused to sail two ferries from Pembroke Dock and Holyhead in Wales for 16 days since the dispute began.

Protests took place in Dublin and in eight other towns and cities on Friday.

Talks in Dublin between the company and unions were adjourned early on Friday, with no agreement reached.

Moored in port

Negotiations are expected to resume over the coming days.

The dispute began in September when Irish Ferries offered redundancy to a third of its workforce in order to replace them with lower-paid workers from central and eastern Europe.

Irish Ferries vessel Isle of Inishmore
The Isle of Inishmore remains in Pembroke Dock

It escalated more than two weeks ago when Irish Ferries crew members on the vessels Isle of Inishmore and the Ulysses barricaded themselves on board.

The ships have remained moored in Pembroke Dock and Holyhead respectively while the dispute remains unresolved.

As well as the company's Irish Sea services, crossings from France to the UK have also been halted.

Irish Ferries has said it needs to bring in foreign staff to remain competitive.

The company added it had been completely open about its plans to bring in new crews as part of a cost-cutting exercise.

It said competition from low-cost airlines, high fuel prices and Irish ship workers earning more money mean it will not make profits after 2007 without radical change.

Protests in Dublin
More than 20,000 people took to the streets of Dublin

According to estimates, between 20,000 and 40,000 people took to the streets of Dublin to support the Irish Ferries workers with thousands more taking part in demonstrations in Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Sligo, Athlone, Tralee and Rosslare.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary, David Begg, said the rally was to express solidarity with Irish Ferries workers and not a protest against migrant labour.

He told the Dublin rally it was about "the exploitation of migrant workers, the displacement of indigenous workers and a 'race to the bottom' in pay and conditions of employment that will inevitably result."

Martin Wall, from the Irish Times newspaper, said the dispute had "serious implications" for the Irish economy.

He told BBC Radio Wales: "It's a major issue in Ireland - not necessary because of the dispute itself but because of its implications for the wider relationships between unions, management and the government."

Protests organised by the International Transport Workers Federation have also been held in Holyhead and Pembroke during the past week in support of the Irish Ferries workers.

Protest held over ferry dispute
07 Dec 05 |  North West Wales

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