Article from the May 2005 edition, the Socialist
paper of the Socialist Party, the CWI in Ireland.
Exploitation of the GAMA workers
AFTER I raised the issue of the exploitation of the GAMA workers in the Dail, the workers believed that a quick resolution was at hand because the government was now aware of how they had been abused by this multinational construction company.
More than three months on, many of the GAMA workers are very disappointed that there are still major issues that have not been resolved. These include the huge amount of overtime that they worked without any proper pay.
GAMA resorted to the courts in order to get the Labour Inspectors' report suppressed and to stop the truth coming to light. And the harsh reality is that they have succeeded up to the present time. For almost two months now the Inspectors' report has a High Court injunction against its publication. GAMA has spent massive amounts of money in the High Court to secure these injunctions and to have a judicial review that went on for a week in order to have the report quashed. The High Court gave these injunctions, and although the hearing into the judicial review is now finished, it will be another considerable period of time before a judgement is given. Even if the judge decides that the report should be published, GAMA can then appeal to the Supreme Court and will probably get a further injunction.
The reason all this is possible is because the law and the courts, in essence, are heavily weighted in favour of the bosses and not for the welfare of workers. It is quite incredible that a company which has exploited thousands of workers in flagrant breach of Irish labour laws can be allowed to abuse the system in this way. In the meantime, GAMA workers have suffered gravely and are virtually destitute. The very impressive gains that have been made and the concessions that have been won for the workers were achieved not because of the courts or the law, but because of the brave actions of GAMA workers to force the hand of the company. There is no doubt that if over 300 workers had not come out on strike, GAMA would have found a means of not paying their wages that it had hidden in Holland. It has also been forced to begin to implement trade union rates of pay on GAMA sites in Ireland.
Three months after the government has begun its investigation it has achieved precious little for the GAMA workers. Yet, seven days after the communities in Fingal, Dublin, began their protests against the bin tax in 2003, my colleague Clare Daly and I were incarcerated in Mountjoy Prison.
I argued weeks ago for the setting up of a group of accountants to assess immediately the overtime pay that was due to the workers. This would have meant taking evidence from the workers. Instead the government pushed for the involvement of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). when this began, GAMA declared that it would not talk to the LRC until the work stoppage ended. What the company wanted of course was for the workers to go back to work, as they would then be shipped out en masse to Turkey and not be able to give evidence about GAMA's exploitation.
Yet GAMA continues to build a massive power station in Co. Galway. The company owns this power station and will be allowed to sell the power it produces into the national grid. The company continues to get public funds for the construction of the Ennis by-pass and important parts of the new housing projects in the Ballymun regeneration scheme. What all this means is that the establishment in this country continued to allow a criminal multinational exploiter to work unhindered, while its workers suffered considerably. This is shameful in the extreme, in view of the fact that the company had carried on its regime of exploitation in secret for more than four years. It is quite disgraceful that the workers are still struggling to secure some basic concessions, which they were denied because GAMA flagrantly broke the law with regard to workers' rights and the implementation of trade union rates of pay.