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(en) Ireland, Workers Solidarity #87* - Irish Ferries Fly The Jolly Roger

Date Fri, 29 Jul 2005 09:15:42 +0300

The story of Salvacion Orge, the Filipino hairdresser who was
paid ¤1 an hour by Irish Ferries through a sub-contractor was
shocking in but actually served to draw away attention from a
larger dispute and scandal.
Irish Ferries and its workers are currently in dispute over the
bosses' plan to 'outsource' its workforce. This dispute has gone
to the Labour Court, where it was ruled that Irish Ferries
couldn't contract out officers' jobs to exploitation (sorry,
'employment') agencies. The contracting-out of officers' jobs
had previously taken place, so the verdict was a victory of sorts.
However the company took it that it was okay to outsource
jobs such as those merchant sailors or deck staff not lucky
enough to be officers.

SIPTU members on the crew had taken a vote for strike action
on June 7th,but this has been forestalled by SIPTU
bureaucrats and Irish Ferries management agreeing to conduct
a 'comprehensive review of operations encompassing the Irish
Sea and the Continental Corridor' on June 16th.This review
will take six weeks to complete, and one of the conditions
attached is that 'no further action of any form' will happen for
the duration, and neither 'will there be any further media
statements for the duration of the assessment process'.

Mind you, this is just the latest phase in a struggle that has
usually occurred away from the gaze of the "fifth estate". The
maritime workforce was the first globalised workforce, and the
passenger ferries are the latest front in this struggle. These
ferries were usually crewed locally, but recent changes to
international labour law allow Irish Ferries and their likes to
cast their net far and wide for the cheapest crew they can get.

Agencies like CF Sharp Crew (which was Salvacion's employer
by the way) have been used by shipping companies for decades
as a device to drive down sailors' pay, and to take the blame or
legal responsibility for horror stories like Salvacion's . They
operate in countries where labour laws are so unfair and so
weakly applied that they facilitate this robbery from labour by
ruthless profit-seekers.

Most merchant mariners come from relatively poor countries,
where compared to on-shore jobs working at sea is well-paid.

There is no job security however, and wages and conditions at
sea for workers have worsened significantly over the last 30
years. Not only do these brave men and women support
families they rarely see, but there's a whole range of parasites
living off their labour. International maritime law allows 'flag of
convenience' registration which means that ships can be
crewed by the cheapest workforce available to the bosses.
Their greed is such that they'll search the world over for the
unfortunate bunch of workers who'll put up with dangerous
work conditions for low wages.

Salvacion Orge's case had a happy ending. Because of her
refusal to be ripped-off and the support of her fellow workers
she received a ¤25,000 severance pay-off and tickets home to
her family in the Philippines. But it is worth reflecting on these
things: Salvacion or her two Filipino co-workers did not get to
keep their jobs; the legal structure of the exploitation planned
by Irish Ferries will be refined and strengthened, not
weakened. by losing in the Salvacion Orge case; and that Irish
Ferries, and shipping bosses everywhere, are not giving up on
trying to contract-out their way to greater profits!

by Ray Hanrahan

This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper
'Workers Solidarity'. http://struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html
We also provide PDF http://struggle.ws/wsm/pdf.html
files of all our publications for you to print out and distribute locally

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