Apprentices strike against fees

Nearly 1,000 apprentices walked out of classes and lectures across the South on 25 February in opposition to the imposition of "service" fees for apprentices completing Phase 4 and 6 of their apprenticeships.

By Matt Waine

250 walked out at Bolton Street with a further 200 at Kevin St, in Dublin. 150 rallied in Cork while a further 100 marched in both Waterford and Limerick with smaller actions taking place in Dundalk and Galway.

The issue has come to a head over the threat by institute directors to not release the exam results of apprentices until they have paid the charge. No plans had been made for a march to the Dept. of Education nor any strategy outlined as to how fees could be fought.

Indeed, some unions were content to limit the action to a symbolic protest at the entrance to the colleges. This jarred with the mood of the apprentices, which was one of solid opposition to the fees and a determination to force the government back on the issue.

Socialist Party members took the initiative in organising a march of the apprentices from the Bolton St. Institute to Kevin St. Our proposal to march on the Dail was agreed with overwhelming support and over 500 apprentices converged chanting "no way - we won't pay" and calling on Minister Dempsey to resign.

In Cork, Socialist Party member Mick Barry attended the protests in solidarity with the apprentices. Before he spoke to the crowd of 150 he was introduced as the "only politician in Cork who supports us."

The walkouts are a clear indication of the level of anger amongst young workers. Dempsey's attack on apprentices has shown the need for apprentices to be organised within the trade union movement.

Socialist Party stands for:

"The college said they wouldn't let us in if we didn't pay, then they said they wouldn't let us sit the exams if we didn't pay, now they say they won't give us our exam results - they are chancing their arms the whole time."

D. Hurley

"The heating was off the first week in January, the gym was closed when we were here during the mid-term, there was no hot food for us when the students were off. If they don't back down, we'll protest again."

Nicky Halley

"These people are the lifeblood of the labour movement going forward. Mass mobilisation is the only way to ensure growth in union membership."

Pat Guilfoyle, TEEU South West Regional Secretary

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This article is from the March 2004 edition of Socialist Voice.

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