Technicians at the Kerry Foods plant in Shillelagh in Co Wicklow are holding a sit-in protest following the suspension of a colleague today in a dispute over new working conditions.

The technicians claim the conditions, including an increased working week, reduced overtime rates and a change in some shift patterns, were forced on them without any negotiations or consultation with their union, the TEEU.

Arthur Hall, of the TEEU, said the dispute has been ongoing over the past few weeks with the 35 technicians on a work-to-rule.

One employee was suspended today with immediate effect after refusing to implement a new procedure.

Over 20 of his colleagues have joined him in a sit-in protest in the canteen this evening.

Frank Hayes, Kerry Group Director of Corporate Affairs, said 700 people are employed in the Shillelagh factory and an agreement was reached with SIPTU, which represents the majority of employees.

Mr Hayes said the company attended the LRC twice last week in an effort to find a resolution with the TEEU members but failed to do so.

He said the company wants to ensure its future viability without jeopardising food safety procedures.