Workplace -Trade Union Reports

CIE, Builders, ADM in Cork, CPSU

CIE - Free travel protest against privatisation

Unions in CIE have announced a series of actions designed to force the government to drop its privatisation plans. The first of these actions will be a day of free public transport on 18 July.

By Stephen Boyd

Following on from massive votes in favour of industrial action (up to 90% support), SIPTU and the NBRU have announced a demonstration on 19 August, plus one day stoppages on 16 September, 14 October, 18 November, and a two day stoppage on 8 and 9 December.

CIE workers will refuse to collect fares on all trains and buses on 18 July to highlight the government's plans to privatise 25% of Dublin Bus routes from January 2004.

Privatisation of the public transport system has lead to a decline in services in Britain and other countries, with an increase in fares to the general public as well as major health and safety difficulties. Britain's rail network has been plagued with safety problems since privatisation, resulting in numerous crashes and fatalities. Privatisation of the bus service will lead to private companies providing limited services at high peak travel times in order to make profits whilst neglecting unprofitable routes and travel times such as late night services.

Supporters of privatisation claim that competition will improve service. However competition will only result in the public transport system being driven by needs of shareholders not the general public. Workers' wages and conditions of employment will be savaged in order to increase profits. Workers employed by private companies will not be allowed to join unions or benefit from the conditions of employment won by the CIE unions over the years.

SIPTU and the NBRU can strengthen their campaign against privatisation by appealing for support from the general public. Public opinion will play a crucial role in this battle. The no fares day protest is an excellent opportunity for the unions to educate the general public about privatisation and to appeal to them to come out in their tens of thousands to support the demonstration on 19 August. A campaign of mass demonstrations and industrial action up to and including all out strike action can defeat Seamus Brennan's privatisation agenda.

Cork lock-out: ADM threatens closure

US MULTINATIONAL ADM are blackmailing workers at their Cork plant - vote to accept drastic cuts in working conditions or the plant will be closed down. As we go to press workers, now in the 19th week of a company lockout, are balloting on ADM's proposals.

By Mick Barry

These proposals include: The creation of new "yellowpack" grades and pay rates; a pay freeze for existing staff which could last five years and which would involve non-payment of pay rises due under the "partnership" process; the elimination of the current arrangement whereby workers can take sick leave uncertified for three shifts in a year; non-payment of wages for the first 24 hours of sick leave and axing of the 10-minute morning meal break.

The Socialist Party believes that these vicious proposals should be rejected. Should the proposals be rejected, and should ADM then move to close the plant, we believe that the unions should launch a massive campaign to resist. Given the spate of recent job losses in the Cork area, local politicians from the government parties could be put under huge pressure by such a campaign.

Should the proposals be "accepted" by the workers under threat of closure, steps should be taken to make sure that other multinationals don't get away with such blackmail in future. This could be done by calling a conference of trade unionists in the Cork area to discuss the lessons of the campaign and to discuss ways of getting a different result the next time a multinational resorts to such bullyboy tactics.

Third world camps on building sites

THE BUILDING and Allied Trades Union (BATU) has demanded an immediate investigation by the Health and Safety Authority into the growing practice of housing building workers on the sites where they are working.

"We have written to the HSA setting out our concerns about the conditions of workers who are being housed in temporary dwellings on buildings sites, a practice which is growing, particularly on public projects in the Fingal and Dublin City Council areas", said Denis Farrell, BATU Deputy General Secretary.

"We are particularly concerned that workers, especially foreign workers brought in by major international companies to carry out public building contracts, may not be free to leave these sites after working hours; that they have no access to trade union representation or advice on their pay and terms and conditions of employment and that they are not being properly informed of their full rights and entitlements in this country", he said.

In its action plan to expand construction capacity, published in June 2001, the government's proposals included: exemptions from work permits for foreign contractors bringing their own workers to undertake specific projects in Ireland; and new planning regulations to exempt temporary accommodation for construction workers on or near sites from the requirement to obtain planning permission.

Denis said: "We have seen how immigrant workers in other economic sectors have been treated. It hardly inspires confidence for workers in temporary housing on building sites, wherever they are coming from.

We want to know where are the additional HSA inspectors to monitor the living and working conditions of these workers; where are the language services and statements of rights and protection of employment and where is the right of access to trade union representation for these people that was promised by the government?". "Reports sent to BATU suggest that these workers may be corralled off from any outside intervention, reminiscent of multinational factory camps in third world countries", he concluded.

Department of Agriculture: Bullyboy managers defeated

CPSU MEMBERS in the Department of Agriculture had been locked out by management for 12 weeks. The dispute originally started over a promotion package. However, it quickly became a direct fight between the CPSU and the Department of Finance.

By Denis Keane, President CPSU

Our members were originally told they would get a promotion package for doing work above and beyond the call of duty. The union sought 50 promotions. Following talks which lasted nearly two years, management's response was to take over 250 of our members off the pay role.

The dispute quickly became a test case about the right of the CPSU to represent its members. The union immediately put out a call to our members for solidarity support for the workers in the Department of Agriculture. A solidarity fund was set up and CPSU members throughout the union made regular contributions to assist the strikers.

The Executive Committee insured that the membership were kept updated on the dispute and we used this year's annual delegate conference to increase the pressure on management. A motion was passed unanimously which called for a one day strike throughout the civil service in support of our colleagues in Agriculture.

Within weeks, the dispute was resolved. Double the amount of promotions looked for have been won with scope for more out of a third party mechanism.

A valuable lesson has been learned by our members. When faced with a management who want to railroad through cutbacks and other changes, the best way of standing up to this "bullying" is industrial action backed up with the support and solidarity of other trade unionists.

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