Here are a series of reports of struggles in
workplaces across Ireland, north and South. It gives a taste of the struggles
that workers and Socialist Party members are involved in. Where practical, give
your support to workers in struggle.
These struggles include An Post, the NIPSA
elections, FBU dispute, the ‘Social Partnership’ scheme, etc. See the other
article on 2 senior ship stewards from Belfast airport who joined the Socialist
after their recent strike.
Don’t forget to visit our industrial/trade
union section of the site.
An Post Cutbacks
By Dominic Haugh
ONCE AGAIN, An Post is attempting to implement more cutbacks.
It is proposed to introduce roadside letterboxes. An Post management are
attempting to make major cuts in expenditure to prepare the company for
privatisation. Postal delivery routes will increase by anything up to 25% and
in some cases possibly more, leading to a consequential reduction in staff
numbers. According to the Irish Times, "the union's national officer, Mr.
Stephen Fitzpatrick, said many of the union members feared that hundreds of
jobs would be lost". With the automation of sorting procedures, postal
delivery staff will find their time of work changing with a consequential loss
of allowances. Overtime levels will also be reduced. Most importantly, an
unspecified number of jobs will be lost.
Social Partnership on the Verge of Collapse?
By Stephen Boyd
PRIVATE SECTOR unions have threatened a series of rolling strikes if
IBEC members implement a pay freeze. The collapse of the social partnership
talks in December has raised the prospect of a return to free collective
are demanding a six month pay pause (pay freeze), followed by single figure
(below inflation) pay increases and have refused to accept the unions’ demands
on trade union recognition. The government have also refused to consider ICTU’s
claim for an increase in statutory redundancy payments from one week per year
of service to three weeks.
has called on its members to “hold the line” on a six month pay freeze. In
response the private sector committee of ICTU discussed plans for strike action
with a series of one day strikes followed up by two day strikes throughout the
private sector. There has always been an element of brinkmanship in previous
social partnership negotiations. What is taking place is more than
are conscious of the decline in the Irish economy and that it may go into
recession over the next period. It doesn’t want to be tied to a three year
deal. IBEC believes that in an economic downturn they will be able to use the
threat of redundancy as a lever to keep wages down. IBEC are also strongly
resisting union recognition because a huge percentage of the jobs created in
multinational companies during the Celtic Tiger are non union. Its members
don’t want to be legally bound to give their employees union rights.
the talks collapsed the bones of a deal had been agreed with the public sector
unions for the benchmarking pay awards to be implemented in phased payments of
25% back dated to December 2001, 50% in December 2003 and final 25% in December
2004 in return for major restructuring.
had also “agreed” to an 18 month pay deal of 6%. The 6% offered in the context
of inflation would be a pay cut.
government, IBEC and ICTU still want social partnership, therefore a national
deal may still be reached. However if private sector unions and employers are
not able to strike a deal, a pay deal may be reached which only covers the
public sector. If social partnership collapses then a return of free collective
bargaining opens up many opportunities not only for workers to fight the issue
of a pay freeze but also to defend their working conditions in the public and
Free collective bargaining if reintroduced would switch the
emphasis back onto shop stewards and local reps to represent their members in
real negotiations and can revitalise the activist layer within the unions. It
also raises the possibility of the “partnership model” being replaced by unions
that actually take offensive industrial action to defend their member’s jobs,
wages and conditions.
Dublin Airport - Battles Continue
By Cllr. Calre Daly, SIPTU shop steward
AS THE strike at Cityjet Handling over low pay and union recognition enters
its fifth month, other airport companies are lining up to launch massive
attacks on working conditions. Seizing on the changed economic climate and the
continued operation of Cityjet Handling driving down standards, they are
determined to put the boot in.
Aer Lingus management, have announced a re-opening of the voluntary redundancy
packages in an attempt to cynically portray the idea that the company is still
in a financial crisis ahead of talks on the 9.5% forfeited by workers under the
company's Survival Plan. That concession was given until February of this year
to allow the company get out of its difficulties, along with reductions in
overtime, annual leave and other conditions.
a €40 million profit last year, and a prediction of €70 million this year, the
company is already saying that conceding on pay would put the company back in
difficulty. What a load of nonsense. They conned workers into accepting this,
now we want it back. In the background, the political establishment is
preparing the ground for a sell-off of the company at the earliest possible
opportunity. Side by side with this, the break-up of Aer Rianta is gathering
private operators such as Servisair and Aviance are also looking for massive
restructuring from the workforce. The question is what will the response be?
These companies have watched the Cityjet Handling dispute and seen the failure
of the union to bring this to a conclusion.
company have spent tens of thousands on legal action against the Dublin Airport
Workers Network and SIPTU to prevent picketing, but they haven't once attempted
to talk to the workers.
Christmas week they overstepped the mark by going into court for the fourth time
against striking workers and for the first time lost their case. This
cost them an enormous amount in legal costs and was a huge blow to their
morale. The challenge for SIPTU is to seize on this and step up the action.
While the blacking of Cityjet Handling is taking place in areas, it has not
prevented the operation from functioning.
picketing should be stepped up, targeted at Cityjet Handling's biggest
customers, namely UPS and SPANAIR. This should be combined with a campaign of
information conducted throughout the airport with an emphasis on Aer Rianta for
allowing this company engage in practices that breach health & safety
legislation. Either airport workers re-develop the traditions of solidarity and
collective action or face the future competing against each other as jobs and
conditions become eroded.
SIPTU's leadership are still associated with the RYANAIR
debacle in 1998, when the airport was shut down, but they failed to unionise
that company and nobody involved in the dispute is employed there today. If
they fail in this dispute then it will pose a serious threat to jobs, wages and
conditions of all union members at Dublin Airport.
North: NIPSA General Council Elections
Vote 'Time for Change'
By Carmel Gates
AT A time when the collapse of the NI Assembly and the reintroduction of
Direct Rule have meant that the nakedly anti-public sector agenda of Northern
Ireland's local politicians continues to be advanced by New Labour ministers, a
return to the old conservative regime in NIPSA would be a disaster for union
Ian Pearson, the minister responsible for finance, announced in November his
agenda for attacking the public sector. He made it clear that he will rely
heavily on privatisation through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and
Public Private Partnerships (PPP's) and also that he intends to introduce water
charges in Northern Ireland. All the services that we rely upon, such as education and health, face destruction.
members also face an attack on their pension rights. In a vicious move, the New
Labour government intend increasing the pension age for civil servants and
cutting pension entitlements. These attacks, coupled with the failure to
resolve the problem of low pay in the public sector, clearly point to struggles
against employers developing in the next year. In these circumstances, every
public sector union should now prepare to defend our services.
concrete terms this means NIPSA must involve itself in the fight and pose a
challenge to our local parties who support Blairs's agenda. There is also a
wider obligation on the trade union movement to challenge the Assembly parties
in elections by putting forward candidates who will provide an alternative for
workers. It is no longer acceptable for the trade union movement to leave the
field clear for parties who promote not only a sectarian agenda but now also an
anti-working class agenda.
Elect All Officials
By Padraig Mulholland
NORTHERN IRELAND'S largest trade union, the Northern Ireland Public
Service Alliance (NIPSA), will elect its new General Council at the end of
January and there is no doubt that it will be the most fiercely contested
In 2002, the old conservative leadership lost control of the General Council
for the first time in its history. The campaign group "Time for
Change" took 13 of the 25 seats on the body achieving an overall majority
on the Executive for the first time.
theory, NIPSA is led by the General Council which is the elected leadership of
the union. In reality, there is also an unelected leadership of NIPSA, the
permanent officials who are based in union HQ.
are appointed into position and are not elected. So, in effect, the members of
NIPSA have no direct influence over their activity. In November, "Time for
Change" challenged this situation by standing Carmel Gates as a candidate
in the General Secretary election for the only negotiating official position
elected by the membership. A hard fought campaign led to a significant 39% of
NIPSA members voting for the TFC candidate.
General Secretary election has shattered any illusions that our officials have
no vested interest in who is the elected leadership of the union. During the
campaign many NIPSA officials spent their time attending campaign organising
meetings, intervening in branches and workplaces and actively campaigning for a
vote for the right wing candidate. It is fundamental for the future development
of a democratic fighting union directed by the membership that all negotiating
officials are elected.
"Time for Change" will continue to campaign for
full democracy within NIPSA and we ask members to elect a leadership that will
continue this fight. Every member will receive a voting paper and manifestos in
the coming weeks. Seven of the candidates are Socialist Party members. Make
your vote count. Vote for the "Time for Change" candidates.
North: Bin The Bain Report - Act to Defend the Fire Service
By Peter Hadden
THE BLAIR government appears to have entered the new year determined to
go to war, not just against Saddam Hussein, but against the firefighters. The
opening shot of this war was the announcement that Section 19 of the 1947 Fire
Services Act is to go. In simple terms this means that fire services can be
slashed without any consultation with local communities.
shows the real intent of the government - not to "modernise" but to
dismantle the fire service as we know it. The vehicle for this assault is the
Bain Report which Blair seems determined to implement.
pay, Bain offers a miserly 4% this year and 7% on the pay-bill next year
provided the proposed "reforms" are implemented in full. On
conditions it demands a change in shift patterns and the introduction of
overtime working. It proposes to cut the numbers of firefighters on duty at
night. It wants to abolish the single tier entry procedure so that managers can
be brought in from the private sector.
the findings of a previously commissioned government review of fire cover, the
Review of Standards of Emergency Cover, which reported in spring 2002, have
been quietly buried. No wonder, given that this research project found an
additional £1.6 billion should be invested in the fire service. It also
concluded that 85% of fire brigades would need to double in size.
It is true that there are fewer fires at night but it is also the case that most
casualties occur at night. Again, government statistics show that the public
are three times more likely to suffer injury or death at night.
Blair sticks to the Bain proposals, the FBU will need to give a determined
response, bringing forward the strike action scheduled for the end of January.
If limited action does not succeed, the question of an all out strike must be
put on the agenda.
The FBU must not stand alone. The whole trade union movement needs to be mobilised
to give money and other practical support. Any attempt to smash the FBU, using
the courts or anti-union laws, should be answered by solidarity action. The
firefighters can win, but they will need real support and solidarity forom other
trade unionists and from the working class communities to do so.
Tony Maguire, secretary of the Northern Ireland region of the FBU,
comments on the implications of the Bain Report:
members always suspected that we would be shafted with Bain. Our campaign for a
fair wage for what we do is one issue, but Bain is quite another.
believe that the Review was engineered in such a fashion as to demoralise the
rank and file FBU member and help create the situation whereby they could
easily be demonised by an already hostile media. Let's not be in any doubt, if
the Bain review is implemented it will impact ruthlessly on the terms and
conditions of firefighters and emergency fire control staff, but it will also
impact on the safety of every citizen in the country.
to decommission or redeploy safety critical fire service resources could, and
no doubt will be taken unilaterally by careerist chief fire officers on the
basis of cost alone, and neither the unions, nor the public need be consulted!
This is the opening of the floodgate that the FBU has, for
many years held closed in the interests of public safety. It is the public, and
in particular people living in low cost, poorly maintained housing in need of
modernisation that will pay for this madness with their lives!"
Other industrial and trade union reports are available. There are further FBU and Nipsa collections of reports.