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(en) Workers Solidarity #74 - Couriers organising

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 2 Mar 2003 11:23:34 +0100 (CET)

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

Cyclone pushbike couriers gained a small
but significant victory last November
when they achieved a pay rise in the face
of considerable management opposition.
Though the pay-rise was only in line with
inflation, management had flatly rejected
this proposal and so provoked an
organised response. 

Only a few weeks previously management had
unilaterally introduced changes in work
practices. This had left a sour taste in a few
mouths but little could be done as management
had dealt with the workers on an individual

The militant couriers decided to act collectively
when agitating for the pay rise as one to one
bargaining with an employer always leaves the
worker negotiating from a position of weakness.
How can it be otherwise when your livelihood is
at the mercy of the other party? Collective
action protects against that to a large extent,
particularly when a spirit of solidarity animates

Cyclone, as usual, tried to wear down the resolve
of the couriers by dragging the process out for
weeks and issuing bullshit proposals to counter
the workers' demands.

It would have been easy to let the matter drop as
it's a physically demanding job. However, the
agitators persevered and put in the hours after
work for two months talking to fellow workers,
seeking their support and participation in the

Faced with united employee opposition the
management gave way completely, perhaps
realising that resisting such a modest pay-rise
was effectively serving to unionise the workforce.

This was the second year in a row that Cyclone
was hit by an uppity workforce. A notable
feature of both campaigns was the democratic
manner in which the workers acted; simple
things like having open meetings, free votes, a
rotating negotiating team (so that people could
gain experience as well as to prevent the
emergence of leaders) contributed to this.

However, due to the high turnover of staff, the
benefit of this experience was lessened as the
more active workers had left during the year.
Unfortunately that situation is already repeating
itself with this year's militants leaving or likely
to in the next few months and so a young
workforce will be left to reinvent the wheel

This has the effect of preventing campaigns from
moving beyond seeking modest pay-increases to
getting sick-pay, holiday pay, insurance,
abolition of piece rates and PAYE status (never
mind self-management!) all of which are absent
in the industry.

Attempts are currently being made to set up a
more lasting organisation for pushbike couriers
(DBMA) but whether it can survive as more than
a social network now the current crop of
militants are departing remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, the Cyclone couriers' success was
a heartening one; people with absolutely no
experience in industrial confrontation won for
themselves a less unreasonable wage. They
demonstrated the potential of direct action by a
workforce to achieve improvements in their
working conditions.

        James O'Brian & Antóin Mac Aodhagáin

Useful contacts

 Dublin Bike Messengers


                               Workers Union
                               (trade union
                               interested in
                               helping couriers
                               575 North Circular
                               Dublin 1.

Useful links

    Workplace struggles and the unions 
New global anarchist index

3000 + pages on anarchism, Ireland, Zapatistas
revolutionary history and struggles around globalisation
Useful links

     Print out the PDF file of #74 - this issue

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