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(en) Ireland, Workers Solidarity issue #93 is - Review: The GAMA Strike DVD

Date Thu, 05 Oct 2006 13:41:00 +0200


For almost a year Turkish workers at the multi-national
construction company Gama waged a struggle to secure trade union
rates of pay, improved working conditions and to reclaim wages
which had been siphoned from their pay packets and placed in
foreign bank accounts opened in their names but without their
knowledge. A co-production by the Socialist Party and Frameworks
Films, “The Gama Strike: A victory for all workers” is an
attempt to document and highlight the exploitation and subsequent
struggle faced by the Turkish workers.
Following a trade delegation to Turkey in 1998 headed by Mary
Harney, GAMA arrived in Ireland, enticed by tax breaks, and
quickly earned itself a reputation for delivering its projects on-time
and under budget. It wasn’t until 2004 when Socialist Party cllr.
Mick Murphy made direct contact with Turkish workers that it was
revealed through handwritten payslips that employees were being
paid as little as €2.20 an hour (well below the legal minimum rate
of pay within the construction industry of €12.96) combined with
80+ hour working weeks. Further investigations by the SP found the
discrepancies in wages between what GAMA was paying and the
legal rate were being transferred into Dutch Finasbank accounts
without the workers knowledge.

Employees formed the Turkish Workers Action Group and its strike
committee initiated a strike which was to last for 54 days. During the
protracted strike, the DVD highlights GAMA failed attempts to
break the will of the workers by using scab non-union contractors,
starving, intimidating and threatening the workers into submission.

Eventually the issue was resolved following a Labour Court
recommendation but what resulted was a mere industrial relations
settlement rather than justice in any real sense of the word. Despite
GAMA’s shenanigans, it has never admitted any liability or been
prosecuted for its actions. Meanwhile the report from the Labour
Inspector has never been published due to a High Court injunction.

The obvious danger which any documentary produced by a political
organisation faces is that it can easily veer into becoming a piece of
propaganda seeking to help an organisation make political capital out
of a situation. Credit must be giving to the SP for avoiding this pitfall
by its calling for greater grassroots trade union activity rather than
stressing the need for a “mass workers party”.

Workers themselves felt that official trade union activity was too
limited with union members continuing to work at GAMA sites in
Ennis and Tynagh and supplies continuing to be delivered to sites.
As Joe Higgins states, “If the trade union officialdom is too slow
in moving, migrant workers and Irish workers cannot afford to wait,
but should organise themselves for action on the immediate issues of
exploitation.”

Clocking in at 73 minutes this DVD is a thorough and interesting
account of the struggle incorporating interviews with the workers
themselves and successfully highlighting the dark underbelly of the
Celtic Tiger without over-emphasising the role of the Socialist Party
at the expense of grassroots trade unionism or self activity.
The Gama Strike: A victory for all workers
DVD available by post for e10,00 or £7.00 from the Socialist Party,
141 Thomas Street, Dublin 8 or Socialist Party, 13 Lombard Street,
Belfast, BT1 1RB
======================================
From the anarchist journal Workers Solidarity 93, Sept/Oct 2006
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