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(en) Ireland, WSM, Workers Solidarity* #87 Gama Workers' Strike Wins Back Stolen Cash

Date Tue, 26 Jul 2005 17:37:05 +0300

The striking Gama workers got back the part of their wages
which had been stolen by their employer and hidden in a
Dutch bank; and at the end of May they voted to accept terms
relating to overtime. A big bullying multinational construction
firm had manners put on it.

The 80 workers who stayed in Ireland to carry on the strike got
€8,000 for each year they worked (and a proportion for part
years),along with severance pay of €2,500.This gives some
idea of the massive unpaid overtime these workers were forced
to do, more so when this money only covers about 30%of what
they should have received.

Along with the stolen wages recovered from the Netherlands, a
worker with three years service went home with over
€65,000 -a big sum here and a huge sum in Turkey.
Although 200 of their colleagues returned to Turkey earlier in
May with their share of the €40 million stolen wages hidden
in Finansnbank, 80 others fought on to get their overtime pay.
The bravery and determination of these workers, who had been
getting just €200 a week, shows what is possible.

It contrasts most favourably with the behaviour of some of our
unions. Union officials seemed happy enough to collect
subscriptions by way of deduction from weekly pay cheques
but not to give any service to the workers. Some of the workers
were not even aware they were union members.

Why did it take a Socialist Party county councillor borrowing a
hard hat and sneaking onto a site to uncover the Gama
scandal? What were union officials like SIPTU's construction
branch secretary, Eric Fleming, doing for the last three years?
Why is the Dublin executive of SIPTU not allowed to see the
results of the union's own investigation? If workers don't speak
English - hire translators. It's pretty simple! Get stewards
elected, organise people (as opposed to just getting them to
sign a form in a language they don't understand).

The Gama workers showed that they didn't lack willingness to
fight their thieving bosses. It was the union officials - so used
to the cosy deals of 'partnership' and the restrictions of the
1991 Industrial Relations Act - who were found wanting.
Migrant workers from poorer countries can be used to lower
wages. But if our unions make a serious effort to recruit and
help them fight for equal pay and better conditions, they won't
be used to lower pay levels but rather to strengthen our hand in
future struggles.

By Joe King
From Workers Solidarity 87 - July 2005

For more details see
* Journal of the Worker Solidarity Movement anarchist federation

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