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(en) Media: Solidarity is strength: Irish and foreign workers must stand firmly together

Date Wed, 05 Oct 2005 17:50:37 +0200


To: <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Subject: Media: Solidarity is strength: Irish and foreign workers must stand firmly together

Workers have different interests to the bosses. It is in the workers'
interests to have a more pleasant working environment, more money
to spend on our families, and more leisure time to enjoy it all. We
can't have all this while slaving to increase the bosses' profits. And
workers of all nationalities, from the factory hands to the teachers,
from street-cleaners to domestic workers have these basic interests in common.
Metro Eireann, a newspaper largely written by and aimed at immigrants in
Ireland, pubished the article (written by a WSM anarchist federation
member) below. It is distrbuted in Dublin at least, and maybe around the country.
The scandal concerning Gama, the Turkish construction
company,which paid its workers as little as a ¤2.20 per hour, showed
a nationwide audience just how vulnerable immigrant workers are.
The current policy whereby work permits are issued to employers
rather than workers ensures that the employer has a stick to beat any
worker who stands up for her rights.

New legislation on the work permit system is still to be debated in the
Dailm and until this new system is put into practice, it remains unclear
if it will significantly reduce exploitation.

However, exploitation is not confined to non-EU workers on permits.
With large numbers of Poles, Lithuanians and other workers from the
former Soviet bloc coming here, there is the prospect of a "race to the
bottom" as employers force workers into competion with each other.

Despite the occasional nationalist rhetoric of Irish bosses they are
much more comfortable with their foreign counterparts than with the
local bus driver who's a bit too enthusiastic about the trade union.

Bosses, be they Irish and foreign, have common interests. It is in a
bosses'interest that workers work harder, longer, for less pay and less
benefits. This is because they will increase their profits.

Capitalists know this. It is why they have associations such as IBEC
and allies like Fianna Fail and the Labour Party. It is why you will have
Turkish bosses xploiting both Turkish and Irish workers and Irish
bosses exploiting both Turkish and Irish workers.

Workers have different interests to the bosses. It is in the workers'
interests to have a more pleasant working environment, more money
to spend on our families, and more leisure time to enjoy it all. We
can't have all this while slaving to increase the bosses' profits. And
workers of all nationalities, from the factory hands to the teachers,
from street-cleaners to domestic workers have these basic interests in
common.

So there is a natural opposition between bosses and workers.

When it suits them, bosses can be quite international. They'll employ
any nationality as long as they can squeeze more profit out of them.
But they can also play one nationality off another. Politicians will use
immigrants as an excuse why there isn't enough money to adequately
fund the health services or why dearly won working conditions are
threatened.

It is important, and in our interest, that Irish working people see
through this propaganda. It is in our own interest because if we allow
bosses to play, for example, the Poles against Irish on the building
sites then both sets of workers will find their working conditions being
reduced as they will effectively be undercutting each other.

The obvious solution is for both sets of workers to come together, to
jointly demand decent working conditions. If they do so, it is very hard
to see what the bosses can do. You won't find too many Construction
executives mixing mortar, laying blocks, and sticking sewage pipes
together.They are utterly dependent on the workers.

If the workers' demands aren't met, and their labour withdrawn, the
bosses' profits will disappear. Of course it's never easy to organise a
militant campaign, and serious preparation would have to be done to
give it a fair chance of success.

But the point is that nothing is being done at the moment. Indeed Ray
Halpin, a SIPTU official, was on national radio (the Matt Cooper
show) at the end of August lamenting the fact that due to the strength
of the employers nothing could be done about the competion between
Irish and immigrant labour on the building sites. He's wrong, as the
history of the labour movement, including his own trade union,
shows.

A start can be made by:

a) Recruiting members to unions

b) Encouraging activity in the unions.

c) The officials of the unions need to stop thinking they are in
another NGO where taking subscriptions and producing policy
documents are enough. If they are unwilling to facilitate direct action
by members they should step aside and get a job with Oxfam.

d) Organising a militant, self-managed campaign with concrete
goals, which includes the willingness to strike. This can unite workers
from every country, not just because they'll feel an outpouring of
brotherly love, but because it is in their interests to unite.

The old trade union slogan is as relevant as ever: Agitate,
Educate,Organise!

This is an elementary approach to improving our daily lives. It's what
got us our basic freedoms and perks, such as the eight hour day,
holidays, sick pay and social insurance a few decades ago.

But more is possible. The labour, both manual and intellectual, of
working people is the what makeo (La Paz, Bolivia)s all that is valuable in the world. And
so there isn't any decent reason why a parasitical employer should
cream off hundreds of millions while the workers around the world are
left with crumbs.

Thanks to the centuries of endeavour of our ancestors, of all countries,
we are born into a society with electricity, transport, science, and a
fascinating variety of cultures. Modern society is advanced enough so
that all can live quality lives to one's taste.

It is disgusting that a tiny minority, such as Ireland's Michael O'Leary
and America's Donald Rumsfeld, get to swagger around in mansions,
and actively prevent the achievement of a fair society, not least by
forcing explotiative working conditions - he gets millions, workers get
peanuts - or, as in Iraq, by savagely destroying people's homes in
order to rob their natural resources.

As well as winning small gains in the present, workers need to develop
a vision of a future society where there isn't any exploitation at all.

Given technological development, it is possible for everybody on the
planet to have a high standard of living.

With the intelligence and good will that most of us see in our friends
and family, it is possible to organise society so that everybody can have
an input into decisions that affect them. In other words, meaningful
democracy in the workplace and the neighbourhood. This means
organising without any bosses making decisions over our heads. Once
bosses get a foothold, they accumulate power and develop different
interests from the rest of the population.

Sections of the workers' movement, particularly the anarchists, have
articulated this vision of self-management over the decades. For those
interested in pursing these ideas, it is a tradition well worth
exploring…

For more information see

* www.struggle.ws/wsm
* www.indymedia.ie
* www.anarkismo.net

James O'Brien WSM (personal capacity)

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