Added 11 February 2005
Joe Higgins TD, Socialist Party - addresses the May Day parade
May Day, Dublin, Ireland, April 29 2005:
Comrades and friends...
I am very proud to bring the solidarity of the Socialist Party to this May Day celebration. We never forget that the first May Day in 1886 was about the struggle for the eight hour day and that workers were killed then and since by scabs and forces of the state to bring about a shorter working day and week.
How shameful it is that one hundred and nineteen years later we have the incredible situation of an eighty hour week being forced onto migrant workers on this island.
How shameful that a rootless multinational like GAMA could escape for over four years in imposing a regime of super-exploitation on its workers. And I have said again and again that I find it impossible to believe that personnel in senior positions on state projects with GAMA could be ignorant of the regime that was in place.
As this is the day of organised labour, let us agree that the trade unions also have sharp lessons to learn from GAMA. Very good work has been done by trade union activists, but the trade union movement as a whole has been slow in waking up to the dangers imposed by this new situation of abuse of migrant workers.
We must never again accept assurances from so-called prestigious establishment organisations' accountant lawyers that all is well. And never again should the language barrier be allowed to have a wall of silence around the grotesque abuse migrant workers.
We do need changes to the law in Ireland to put in place procedures to verify exactly what pay rates the bosses are giving to migrant workers - and all workers - and we do need to criminalise far more of those bosses who break the laws about workers' rights.
But there is no substitute - there is NO substitute! - for a massive strengthening of trade union organisations in the work places. We need a born-again trade unionism that uncompromisingly and aggressively by its own power will insist on workers' rights and proper wages being respected.
We need to rebuild trade unionism with the rigor of the great founders of our movement James Connolly, Jim Larkin, and the women and men who rose the Irish working class from its knees in the earlier part of the 1900s.
I just want to finish up by making some points on the GAMA dispute which are extremely important. GAMA workers in Ballymun, Bolgatty and partially in Ennis have been on a work stoppage for three weeks now.
Within one week GAMA began to bring in east European sub-contractors and last Wednesday on the Ballymun site before a major blockade by the workers was put in place on Thursday and Friday - last Wednesday there was sixty-four workers hired by eastern European sub-contractors on the site doing the work of the GAMA workers who are on strike.
Now, if the trade union movement tolerates routine strike breaking it will have devastating consequences. If the trade union movement tolerates sub-contractors bringing in workers, whether from Ireland or eastern Europe, to workplaces at half or two-thirds of the trade union rates of pay, it will have a disastrous impact forcing down the wages and working conditions of all workers in this country.
And we are at a decisive stage - there is no doubt that the government and bosses see the new east European states in the EU are the supply force for workers - sheep workers whom they think they can use as a battering ram to break trade unionism and proper pay and conditions in this country.
Now, the GAMA workers have been on work stoppage for three weeks. That is absolutely morally right - let us not get tied up on official or unofficial labels such as these. I am appealing now to all workers, to all trade unionists, to now come in behind the GAMA workers and to insure that from next week that no work happens by any sub-contractors or any other workers on the GAMA site. Bring them to a halt - that is how we will bring down this company!
And I want to make an appeal to all the workers here, on Tuesday morning and every morning after that, please come out and join the GAMA workers protest in Ballymun and in Bolgatty. Starting at 6:30am on Tuesday morning, come out and stand with the GAMA workers - Irish and Turkish and others together - so that we can force this company to pay the overtime that the workers are due and the justice that they need.
My last word comrades is this, we should not forget the reason we have these problems - this shameful exploitation - is because of the rapacious system of multi-national capitalism that dominates our world. And on May Day we think of the alternative of Democratic Socialism, where the resources of our world are taken from the hands of the imperial bosses and the multi-nationals and put them under the democratic control of working people world-wide - so that there is enough and plenty and a life of dignity and democracy for every human being.