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(en) Ireland, Anarchist Workers Solidarity #88 - The Price of Being Reasonable

Date Fri, 28 Oct 2005 18:28:02 +0200

There were fewer strike days last year than in any year since the
1920s. At the same time the number of disputes referred to the Labour
Court was up 21%. Does this mean that 'going through the
procedures' and being 'reasonable' is paying dividends of workers?
Well, not for the workers who are getting one euro an hour in Irish
Ferries after the Irish crews were dumped and replaced with
super-exploited East Europeans and Filipinos. Not for the Aer Lingus
workers whose bosses were circulating a document on how to
intimidate people into taking redundancy. Not for the vast majority of
us who have seen our bosses make huge profits in recent years and at
the same time seen our pay rises restricted.

Thirty years ago 77% of national income went on wages & pensions,
today it has dropped to 55%. For most of us, living standards have
certainly improved but we are getting a smaller proportion of the
wealth we help to create.

Many of our union leaders seem to be as opposed to militant action as
would be any IBEC representative. Almost two decades of 'social
partnership' deals with the employers and government have made
them very hostile to anything that might endanger their cosy deals.
And the 1991 Industrial Relations Act leaves unions open to legal
action if they don't give advance notice of industrial action to the
employer or if they support sympathy strikes, legal action that could
cost them millions. Most union leaders did not oppose this law. We
now have the absurd situation where the largest organisation in the
country, one with the power to shut down everything, reduces itself to
passively lobbying the government.

SIPTU President Jack O'Connor sees the problem: "This widening
gulf between workers' rights on paper and their experience in practice
highlights the abysmally inadequate resources allocated to the
enforcement of the legislation. There are only 21 labour inspectors to
cover 1.6 million workers.

"Even if, against all the odds, an unscrupulous employer happens to
fall foul of a labour inspector, the penalties for breaches of the
legislation are so paltry as to have absolutely no deterrent effect.

However O'Connor can't see the solution. The best he can do is to call
for "a properly resourced labour inspectorate". Does he really believe
that polite lobbying will be sufficient?

After all he said (on April 12th) that "the exploitation of workers by
Gama and others were not accidents. They were the inevitable
consequence of a ruthless institutional policy promoted through the
Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment".

Our unions, for all their caution and conservatism, are important.
People in unionised jobs have better pay and conditions than in
non-union ones. We stay in our unions because we know that they are

But, if we don't return to the combative trade unionism of Connolly
and Larkin, we will let the bosses think they can get away with almost

More on Workplace struggles and the unions

The Irish economy - an anarchist analysis
This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper
'Workers Solidarity'. http://struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html

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publications for you to print out and distribute locally

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This edition is No88 published in Sept 2005

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