Article from the October 2005 edition, the Socialist
paper of the Socialist Party, the CWI in Ireland.
Apprentices occupy TEEU HQ
By Ray McLoughlin, TEEU National Executive (personal capacity)
The entrance lobby of the TEEU head office in Dublin was occupied and picketed from the morning of Monday 19 September until the following Thursday by apprentice electricians from the ESB who were angry that the union would not fight for their jobs in the company. Their anger was heightened by the continued large-scale employment of outside contractors by the company while they were told that there was no work for them.
57 apprentices, out of 100 or so, were told that they were to be let go by the company. The majority, around 70, of these apprentices were formerly general workers and were classified as "temporary day" workers. Despite this classification, many of these apprentices had worked for three, four or even five years for the Board before they started to serve their time.
One aspect of the "Pact" agreement allowed for the employment of "temporary day" workers as apprentices. Many of these workers were in their late twenties or early thirties with families and mortgages. While acknowledging that no specific promises of permanent jobs was made, they feel they were led to believe that, with the economy growing, they would have jobs when they finished.
The occupiers feared the possibility that the union might have them evicted or even arrested. They withdrew from the lobby to picket the outside of the office on Wednesday evening. In the meantime they received publicity on primetime TV news shows.
Mixed signals seemed to emanate from meetings with union officials on Wednesday but on Thursday they received assurances from TEEU officials that they would not be laid off by the company while talks on a new "Pact" agreement were taking place and that their case would be taken to the Rights Commissioner. These assurances were accepted by the apprentices as sufficiently strong for them to withdraw their protests. If these jobs are to be saved, pressure must be kept on both the company and the union officials.