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(en) Workers solidarity, 72 Sep. 2002 - Factory worker takes on SIPTU top brass

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 27 Sep 2002 02:52:19 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

A radical shopfloor worker has put himself forward in
the election for general secretary of Ireland's biggest
union, SIPTU. Des Derwin, an assembly operative at the
Mouldpro plastics factory in Dublin, is a long-time
union activist and independent socialist. His two
opponents, Noel Dowling and Joe O'Flynn, are senior
full-time employees of the union who stand for
continuing union 'partnership' with the bosses and the

The rule book gives the ordinary members so little control
that anyone elected is free to do pretty much as they please
regardless of promises made before the election. Derwin
wants to break the dependency on the full-time officials. He
is calling for shop stewards to be given more resources and
time off to represent their members, for SIPTU officers to be
paid workers' wages rather than executive salaries, and for
the restoration of the right of ordinary members to elect the
National Executive Council.

He hopes that his election campaign will start a debate about
what sort of union we want. Do we want a pro-employer
service supplied by highly paid professionals or do we want
an organisation controlled by shopfloor workers and willing
to fight for the best possible wages and conditions? Are we
to be little more than consumers of a service or should we be
in the driving seat?

Derwin puts his cards on the table in his election address, "a
union should tell the employer - not the workers - what they
have to accept".

Workers Solidarity spoke to Des Derwin:

Why did you decide to stand?

   To provide an alternative voice. A voice for change
   in SIPTU. Both of the other candidates have the
   same policies as each other. Both have the same
   policies as the Union leadership. A vote for either is
   a vote for more of the same. They support social
   partnership. Neither of them objected to the
   abolition of the members' vote for the NEC.

What sort of trade union would you like to see SIPTU

   A fighting and democratic trade union, exactly like
   it says on the tin. The main point of standing is to
   broadcast to the members the idea that there is a
   different type of trade unionism. That unions are
   there to defend jobs, pay, conditions and living
   standards against the ruthlessness of the rich and
   the market. Not to be partners of the rich and
   powerful. That unions are the members, not a
   well-heeled apparatus passing on a consensus from
   tripartite committees . That it should not be natural,
   but shocking, to have the Taoiseach, fresh from
   closing hospitals, to reopen Liberty Hall.

How do you think this can be achieved?

   Not by electing a different General Secretary. But
   that vote can be a focus for what will achieve it. For
   members, who want change, to organise to bring it
   about. To organise, even before that, to be able to
   act, or to assist those acting, even when the support
   of our leaders is missing. It won't be overnight. Not
   with disorganisation and disinterest on the shop
   floor and non-attendance at Branch meetings. Not
   with social partnership as the accepted norm.

   Beginning with networks and bulletins and on to
   stronger link ups, a movement can take off. And
   take up, on the job, in the Branch and from the
   podium of Conference, an agenda for change: free
   collective bargaining, solidarity and sympathetic
   action, campaigning on the social wage, open
   debate on major issues, changes in the Rules and
   the structures of the Union, election and
   accountability of officials.

   The root will be, as it always was, strong Sections
   and Section Committees in the workplace. That
   agenda is not fully agreed, or even fully envisaged,
   even among all those supporting my candidacy. It
   doesn't have to be. There is enough common
   ground to take first steps - another has led off before
   me - and hammer out the agenda along the way.
   Nothing can be forced on people - especially by a
   lone General Secretary - because it will take a great
   many members acting in agreement to effect even
   the first real changes.

   Your vote for me will add weight to an alternative
   voice for a fighting and democratic SIPTU. I'm not
   after a big union job. I'm standing for renewal and
   change in our union. For a turn to independence,
   fighting-form and control from below by the general
   membership. Your vote is only a start. It will take
   many members, organised and organising for it, to
   bring change.

Balloting starts on September 19th and continues through to
October 9th. To get leaflets to hand out in your workplace,
call 087-6229686 or email dderwin@gofree.indigo.ie

              Alan MacSimˇin (SIPTU shop steward)

See also

   Workplace struggles and the unions
   anarchist analysis of the unions alongside specific
   coverage of strikes and workplace disputes in Ireland
   The two souls of the trade unions [1995]
   Union activists are facing new management attacks but
   the trade union leadership speaks only of partnership
   with the bosses. Des Derwin, member of the Executive
   of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and of the Dublin
   Private Sector Regional Executive Committee of SIPTU
   gives his personal view on the two souls of the unions.

    This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper 'Workers
  Solidarity'.  http://struggle.ws/worksol.html

We also provide PDF files of all our publications for you to print out
 and distribute locally http://struggle.ws/wsm/pdf.html

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