Article from the June 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI

Joe Higgins Column


I HAVE to begin by making an important clarification regarding a paragraph in my column in the May edition of The Socialist. Unfortunately, gremlins got in and jumbled one sentence, which gave an unbalanced assessment of aspects of the GAMA story. The sentence reads that the investigation by the Labour Inspectors into GAMA achieved "precious little" for the workers and a highlighted quote said that the investigation "achieved nothing". In fact, the Labour Inspectors' work played an important role in bringing some of GAMA's exploitative methods to light. On 8 February, after I first raised the allegations of GAMA's exploitation in the Dail, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin ordered the Labour Inspectorate to investigate. Essentially, they were to see whether they could verify claims about wages of E2.50 an hour and 80-hour weeks uncovered by Socialist Party Councillor Mick Murphy following information from Irish carpenters. The Inspectors, with the co-operation of GAMA workers, did a thorough job in a context where GAMA management went to great lengths to obstruct the truth coming to light. It was the pressure of the Inspectors seeking out the real wages of the workers that forced GAMA management to reveal that some of the workers' wages were paid into Finansbank Holland in Amsterdam. This was crucial information that led us to pay a surprise visit to the bank with former employees of GAMA where we uncovered the unpaid wages. This discovery was instrumental in pushing 350 workers to go on strike demanding the immediate payment of the funds, which had been secreted in Finansbank. The strike in turn put huge pressure on the government to pressurise GAMA into quickly transferring the workers' wages from Amsterdam to their personal accounts. This was a complex series of interactions, but all based on the GAMA workers' determination to get justice and the Socialist Party championing their cause. Most of the GAMA workers who participated actively in the struggle have now returned home to Turkey. They received their wages that had been hidden in Amsterdam. They also won a significant settlement on the unpaid overtime worked, although falling short of total payment. The unmasking of GAMA's exploitation and the struggle for justice by GAMA workers with the help of the Socialist Party will form part of the history of struggle of the working class in Ireland. For the first time in our history, hundreds of migrant workers marched through the streets of Dublin chanting their slogans in Turkish. It was an unforgettable experience for those of us who were privileged to be part of this movement.

Nursing home scandal

People throughout Ireland were deeply shocked when the RTE television programme, Primetime, revealed scandalous treatment of elderly people in a private nursing home called Leas Cross in north Dublin. Incredibly, the elderly residents in this facility were paying up to E45,000 a year. The leaders of the Dail opposition parties raised the issue the following day with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Unfortunately, I was not on the list to ask questions for that day. Although many important points were raised, such as inadequate inspection of these homes, the most critical point was not - why should care for the elderly be seen as a business to make profits for individuals and companies? Outrageously, the owners of the nursing home exposed on Primetime recorded a profit of almost E500,000 last year. As in all areas of life when the capitalists' greed for profit dominates, humanity goes out the window. Comprehensive care for the elderly should be organised by the State with sufficient resources to provide each person with security and dignity for their twilight years.

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