(Web site http://www.theplough.netfirms.com/)
Vol. 4- No 25
Monday 19th November 2007
E-mail newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party
1) Bare Faced Hypocrisy
2) Trade unionism and Republican Socialism
3) Health Care Crisis
5) In a Revolution You Win or you Die
6) Media -Dublin Bus Strike
7) What’s On?
BARE FACED HYPOCRISY
Bertie Ahern and his government, have just committed one of the greatest crimes of hypocrisy imaginable even from a government representing the interests of the bourgeoisie. He and his government have just awarded themselves, all be it on the recommendations of an external body regarding public sector pay which could have been declined, a 14% pay rise while, at the same time urging wage restraint for the rest of the workers in the state.
“Tanaiste Brian Cowen said that a realistic approach to wage demands was necessary if Ireland wanted to maintain its competitiveness and living standards’ (Metro Friday November 9th 2007).
Firstly competitiveness does not secure higher living standards for working class people. Ask anybody who has recently lost their job due to competition either from other firms or other countries with slave labour economies/ So lets destroy that myth. Competitiveness, or so called perfect competition, means various firms compete with each other for a share of the so called “free market”, be it in Ireland or with companies in other countries normally where wages are so low they are often at starvation levels.
This ultimately leads to redundancies for the workers who can not afford to keep up with the competitive nature of the capitalist beast and will not accept wages more in line with those paid in Morocco or South Korea, Pakistan or India. James Connolly warned early in the 20th century about Ireland becoming the biggest “blacklegs” in Europe. Well if the capitalist system has its way Irish workers stand a good chance of becoming the biggest “blacklegs” on the planet. The argument must, therefore follow, how can a system which denies people the right to earn a decent living because the costs are too high for the company claim to maintain high living standards? Or does it really mean high living standards for the bosses at the expense, as usual, of the workers
Cowen was addressing delegates, at Farmleigh House in Dublin on Thursday 8th November 2007 ahead of next years pay talks under the “Towards 2016” partnership agreement. This agreement means the trade unions accept miserably low pay increases, often below the rate of inflation which amounts in real terms to a pay reduction, while the bosses profits soar. The Tanaiste went on to try and explain external factors such as rising oil prices and the weakening dollar, both symptoms of the capitalist system called international or global capitalism, which never appear to affect the profits and living standards of the bosses (bourgeoisie).
He went on to sanctimoniously preach “The national partnership agreements have served us well over the last decade and I would hope that this well tested approach can once again be relied upon in helping us meet the emerging challenges we now have to face”. Well I’m sure you do Brian after all you, and any successor to you, represent the interests of the bourgeois class therefore when you talk of “us” that is exactly to whom you are referring. These people when they talk of “us” are not being all inclusive or in any way objective “us” to them means the owners of the means of production, control and exchange be them indigenous Irish or multinational companies, and not in any way the creators of all wealth, the working class. Put plainly “us” does not include the working class except, of course, at times of elections.
So why do various governments of liberal democracies continually rub workers faces in the shit, some more bare faced than others? Simple, because they can get away with it! They represent the interests of high finance and if they could, in the interests of big business introduce a law freezing pay for ten years while profits rise and get away with it the chances are they would. Every now and again a radical voice of trade unionism will speak out but these people are increasingly more isolated. However the system has got in place a mechanism and allie called the Irish Congress of Trade Unions who will silence, to save the bosses the trouble, any rabble rouser(s) within their ranks. With these people at the helm the employers can rest assured that the ugly head of Larkinism and Connollyism will never again give the workers a lead in Ireland.
However it does not mean these people will be in charge for ever but, that said, only the dispossessed people can ultimately change things. Only the people who are taken the piss out of on a daily basis hold the power to bring about lasting, no, permanent change which means a little bit more than changing the government it means changing the system of government, it means Socialism and, in the case of Ireland, the establishment of a 32 county socialist republic with the working class in control. No amount of Dail elections will bring this metamorphosis about, real change comes from below. Exercise your right to vote, definitely exercise this right, before they remove this last vestige of democracy from your grasp but be under no illusions as to any serious level of change brought about by such elections.
Kevin Morley IRSP, Dublin
Trade unionism and Republican Socialism
The so-called expert writers of the Irish Trade Unions have no experience of the trade union culture in Ireland. Many of these trendy lefties have never attended a Branch meeting, or participated in any trade union activity.
Indeed some of these people live and work in Ireland and do not see the need to organise in their own non-union workplace. According to the European Union half the working population in Ireland are trade unionists -
Union density overall in Ireland had been around 50% for a number of years in the 1970s and early 1980s, but by 1987 it had fallen to 43.5%. There has once again been a growth in membership since then, and current union density is estimated to lie at around 50%.
These British, French, Italian trendy lefties rather than criticise the
Irish Unions should look at their own back yard; at the very least become involved in the trade union movement. Contrary to belief amongst the Continental trendy left, Irish trade unions have both a democratic content and mechanism.
Republican Socialists acknowledge the Irish Trade Union movement as the organised working class. As such, it is our only access to organise workers. It is not our aim to control and manipulate but rather to give a lead with ideas and action within our specific unions. Republican Socialists need to mobilise trade unionists on the ground to re-engage with their trade unions by participation within the democracy of trade unions at all levels.
However, it must be admitted that it was through this democracy that trade union bureaucracy sets in. The struggle to transform the unions inevitably comes up against this conservative bureaucracy, whose jobs depend on maintaining their role as middlemen in the struggles and negotiations between workers and bosses. The top three officials in
SIPTU receive nearly £80,000 a year.
In 1987 the propaganda machine of the Free State government and the bosses worked overtime to sell the Social Contract. Trade union leaders too were keen to sell their members the idea of social partnership, management and unions would get together to cooperate over improving the state of the Irish economy in order to share out the subsequent wealth generated . The Programme for National Recovery committed these 'social partners ' to "seek to regenerate the economy and improve the social equity of our society through their combined efforts."
As long as workers worked harder the size of the national cake would grow and consequently the workers share would grow to.
Today the government and the bosses yell bellicose attacks at workers fighting to defend themselves that there must be no conflict, no challenge to the social partnership,which has produced this redistribution of wealth to the rich, or the whole boom will fall apart. Is it the case that the boom was created and is sustained by the social contract, which holds workers wages in check while the bosses rake in super profits? The social contract has been the cover behind that foreign capitalists have sought to boost their profits by rising productivity, that is changing working conditions to make us all work harder and longer
As ICTU put it partnership means moving from "the clenched fist of confrontation to the open hand of cooperation." They are tied to the idea of social partnership, more accurately class collaboration. They act like referees in the fight between workers and bosses rather than leaders. Yet they are not the ones suffering short-term contracts or total quality management.
Nevertheless, this can change. One Republican Socialist openly opposed this bureaucracy. Moreover, using the same democratic mechanism was elected with more than 50% more votes under his hat than the bureaucrat.
Revolutionary change of the unions is about a fight to change the leaders and in many cases the structures and rules whereby all trade union officials are elected, recallable. Moreover, to achieve this requires the organisation of the rank and file of the unions against the bureaucracy. Remember every vote in the trade unions are by postal ballot. It is worth noting that in some cases for a trade unionist to be elected on to the Executive, it takes 5 times as many votes as a local authority councillor. Trade unions might be “schools for socialism”, but trade union consciousness is not spontaneously socialist.
Some have asked the question why trade unions exist. Workers are aware what the Unions do. They know that they defend wages and conditions, and provide legal aid both inside and outside the place of work. These things are important. However, why was it important to fight for them?
The answer to this question is to be found in the foundations of trade unionism and more importantly socialism also. Workers had to fight for these things because the employers and governments were not prepared to give them until they were forced. That is true and the force which they used was based upon their power to stop work, in other words in their power to strike. For that reason, Trade Unionists have always aimed at 100% organization, and have regarded the non-unionist as a danger and the strike-breaker as a “blackleg”.
Why have the workers had to rely upon their power to withhold labour?
“For the reason that workers have no other power than their labour power”. In a capitalist society, the working class is in a distinctive position. In comparative terms, workers have no property. It is dependent upon the class, which exploits it. The capitalist, owns the factories, mills, mines, railways, transport. That is why the removal of labour by the workers can be so powerful a weapon when used on a large scale.
When Trade Unionists fight the employers on wages questions and the conditions of labour they are really fighting against consequences f the capitalist system. The existence of the private ownership of the means of production means also the private ownership of the things produced and their sale as commodities in competition one with another.
Labour also is a commodity and those who sell their labour power, the members of the working class, manual and brain-worker alike, also compete like other Trade unions are the basic organisation of the Irish working-class
However; they are much more than that. They are the kernel of the future Irish society within the old.
Of course, since the workers organisations exist in a capitalist Ireland they are subjected to alien class pressures. This includes both the Irish Ruling class and US imperialism. These pressures weigh heavily on the upper stratum and this often leads to degeneration. We are not dealing with an ideal norm, but with the mass organisations, as they really exist in class society. The distortions that occur, especially in periods when the working class is not on the move, can produce a feeling that the unions cannot be changed. This serious mistake is contradicted by the historical experience of the movement. Repeatedly the workers have moved to transform their organisations into organs and schools of solidarity, struggle and socialism.
The history of the Irish unions is not a straight line. On the contrary,
it unfolds in an uneven fashion with various contradictory shifts in one direction or another. It is constantly characterised by the struggle between two traditions and two tendencies. A revolutionary one, reflecting the unconscious will of the working class to change society, and a subservient one, reflecting the pressures of the ruling class on the upper stratum, that then attempts to block the movement to change society and lead it instead like a lamb into safe channels.
In normal periods, the consciousness of the workers is affected by the dead weight of tradition and routine. In such times, most people are prepared to accept the leadership of the Professionals, Bourgeois and reformist politicians, Members of the Dail, Parliament, councillors and trade union leaders.
The Venezuelan CTV (the old national trade union federation) sold its soul to the old two-party capitalist system and governments it produced.
For 40 years, the Venezuelan trade union movement lived through its worst period, because workers were puppets in the games played by the old parties (Copei and AD) and the bosses’ organizations. Venezuelan still remember how AD (Democratic Action) decided the fate of workers, bought and sold contracts and worked with the government to control the unions and the CTV. We should remember that the bosses’ strike of 2002-3was led by CTV and Fedecamaras (the bosses’ organization) working hand in hand. The Irish trade unions were doing just the same when they signed the social contract.
However, there are periods of crises and upheavals, when the working class is shaken out of the old apathy and begins to take action, demanding solutions, asking questions. Being close to the class, the unions reflect this changed mood very early on. Moreover, what happens in the unions today will be expressed perhaps as problems in the Irish Republican Socialist Party tomorrow?
The pioneers of Irish Labour Connolly, Larkin were inspired by a vision.
They believed that the trade union movement and Republican Socialism would become a powerful weapon of social emancipation. This revolutionary aspiration was, and in many cases remains, enshrined in trade union rules and constitutions.
Through the experience of collective struggle, the working class gradually raises itself to an understanding of the need to change society. It develops a sense of its own power and ability. One can see this in every strike. Marxists base themselves on this fact and strive to develop this tendency and bring it to the fullest expression.
The role of Marxists in the trade unions is to make conscious the unconscious will of the working class to change society. The working class has within its ranks a tremendous strength and resilience. Even when it suffers a terrible and crushing defeat, it recovers and again reasserts itself. It is like the Greek god Antaeus of ancient mythology, who when thrown to the ground, drew strength from his mother the earth.
Whatever obstacles lay in its path, the objective conditions of life force it to continually struggle against the system of capitalist exploitation. Those who argue that the class struggle is out of date are obviously out of touch with the reality of Ireland in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Trade unions must be organised to recognize that all the efforts of the working class must be directed to the goal of the conquest of political power. Their fight in the industrial field must be linked with the fight to obtain a Socialist Government which, backed by the might of the working class, would transfer the ownership of the means of production and distribution from private hands to social ownership.
Health Care Crisis
There is a health care crisis in the British Isles. Despite huge amounts of money being poured in conditions are gradually getting worse. In the North of Ireland the health Minister complains that his department is under-funded compared to the rest of the UK. In the Republic patients dread a recommendation from their doctors to go to hospitals dreading hospital trollies, disease, cancelled operations and appalling services. The same can be applied to many hospitals in the UK. Why?
Most of these problems stem from creeping privatisation and marketisation of the public services, most notably begun under MargretThatcher embraced by New Labour, Fianna Fail, Progressive Democrats and all the main stream parties in the north of Ireland. The Tories began the contracting-out of ancillary services like catering, laundry and cleaning thereby beginning the rise in hospital-acquired infections. More significantly, however, they began the process of turning the NHS from a cohesive, integrated body - in which service provision was planned to meet the health needs of local populations - into a loose assemblage of competing 'businesses', linked by market or quasi-market transactions.
They did this, in the first instance, by making hospitals and local doctors' surgeries independent of direct control by local health authorities, introducing an 'internal market', in which 'purchasers' (health authorities) had to 'commission' local services from 'providers' (usually, NHS trusts). To begin with, all the participants in this market were public sector bodies, but they were forced to behave like commercial businesses. Increasingly, the costs of all the transactions between different NHS bodies made up a significant proportion of expenditure within the service and the number of bureaucrats, accountants, lawyers, etc. mushroomed at the expense of the number of clinical staff. Also, part of the aim was that, in due course, private health companies would be able to compete with NHS trusts to sell services to commissioning bodies. That is why the health services are in crisis
(Source Marxism Digest, Vol 48, Issue 46)
Most of us when we hear the term poverty more often than not assume poverty as being basically a lack of money. This is in part true but for a better understanding of poverty it is we need to go further than this clear-cut, definition of poverty.
Poverty is much more than a lack of money; it is about a lack of wealth. During the 1950s if a person could not afford a television that was not considered poverty but today it is. Today a television set is large element of wealth produced. In the 1950s it was not. Poverty is about a share of the wealth.
By the same token one could argue that there was less poverty during the 1930s because less wealth was produced. If you were stranded on a desert island and you had several thousand pounds in cash, but no shops in which to spend it while those around you had things such as food, clothing and shelter that would be poverty.You could not eat your money.
We live in a society whereby elements of wealth also consist of Housing, education and Health. Therefore any cuts in these social needs must also contribute to the increasing levels of Poverty
Growing world poverty and conflict shows the barbarity of capitalism. The last ten years there has been a major expansion in poverty around the world. The day to day decisions of who lives and who dies on this planet are not taken by Governments but in the board rooms of multi-national corporations whose only reason for continued existence is the extraction of the maximum amount of sweat, blood and tears from the workers of this planet in order to swell their ever increasing coffers.
Under the system of capitalism crime, corruption, and underhandedness go hand in hand.The figures for those in poverty are disturbing:
54 countries saw the decline of average incomes during the whole of the 1990's
21 countries actually went backwards in terms of human development, which is measured by income, life expectancy and literacy.
On a daily basis 30,000 children die from illnesses which are totally preventable.
Annually, 500,000 women, that is one for every minute of every day die in pregnancy or childbirth.
In the 1990's alone 13 million children were killed by diarrhoea which equates to more than the entire number of people killed in all armed conflicts since World War II.
In Zimbabwe the average life expectancy has gone down from 56 in the early 1970's to 33.1 during the 1990's. In the UK life expectancy rose from 72 to 78.2 in the same period.
In Sierra Leone 363 children in every 1000 or over 1 third do not reach their fifth birthday. Just as a comparison in Norway only four children in 1000 do not survive or just 0.4%.
These facts come from the United Nations Annual Development report which saw more than 50 countries have a decline in living standards during the 1990's.
According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) report poverty levels in Ireland are still among the highest in the EU despite having the second highest GDP in the EU. The Minister for Social Affairs, Seamus Brennan T.D.said that while the eradication of poverty in Irish society remains of the highest priority for the Government, it is also important to state that in less than a decade at least 250,000 people have been lifted out of deprivation and hardship as a result of concentrated and targeted measures and supports. Seamus Brennan is either a fool or a liar. If he believes that he has lifted 250. 0000 people out of poverty, he has failed even to recognise his own Governments interpretation of poverty.
People are living in poverty if their income and resources (material, cultural and social) are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living, which is regarded as acceptable by Irish society generally. As a result of inadequate income and resources people may be excluded and marginalised from participating in activities, which are considered the norm for other people in society.
A greater part of those lifted out of poverty were removed from one area of deprivation to another. Forcing people off benefits on to other benefits not used in poverty measurements. There are more than 290,000 people living in consistent poverty, those who do not reach the more than the 50% baseline. Therefore those with incomes less than 50% of the national average income are not considered to be in poverty
IRSP research discovered that those on the Poverty line or just below it have incomes less than 50% of the national average.The worst affected are those not in a position to take up a job -- older people, carers, lone parents, children, the long-term unemployed and people who are sick or disabled. An EU Report on Income and Living Conditions, from last year found that "almost one in five people" in the 26 Counties remained "at risk of poverty"
The only cure is the eradication of the Capitalist system and it's replacement with a Workers Republic; a democratic socialist planned economy controlled by councils of workers, trade unions and governments, who are subjected to the immediate right of recall by the people at any time.
What we have we have to deal with is that economic power is now in the hands of the World Bank, the IMF and GATT, which are unrestricted by the processes of government. The making of environmental problems is a result of the capitalist mode of production. Consequently capitalism is unable to coexist with sustainable development. . The poor, therefore, are by and large ignored and not a concern to multi-national developers than the environment itself. The poor, after all, are a reserve resource of cheap labour.
We see on a worldwide scale greater instability, conflicts and misery for millions around the globe.
In terms of international co operation we could set in motion a global plan based on needs to eliminate poverty. We could introduce education, development, and an end to the destructive conflicts that have torn the world apart. Then we can begin to enrich the lives of our fellow human beings and put an end once and for all to the human suffering that currently plagues our race. We have the technology, the knowledge and the ability to truly build paradise on Earth for all, while at the same time living in harmony with nature, and putting an end to the environmental destruction of our planet,
Some key statistics on Inequality
97% of those studying ‘Home Economics’ are female compared to only 35% those studying ‘Economics
92% of the Traveller community have no GCSEs or equivalent (compared with 5% of all NI school leavers)
Almost two in five (39%) female employees work part-time compared with 6% of males.
The employment rate for those without disabilities (79%) is over twice that of people with disabilities (32%).
Some 70% of social housing tenants live in communities that are at least 90% Catholic or Protestant.
Only 17% of Northern Ireland’s MLAs (18 out of 108) are women, compared with 33% in the Scottish Parliament and 47% in the Welsh Assembly.
Although almost one in five persons (18%) of working-age are disabled in NI, in 2006 only 3% of appointees to government public appointments were disabled
The 2005 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey (NILT) found that 25% of respondents felt they were either very prejudiced or a little prejudiced compared to 11% when surveyed in 1994.
(Source speech byBob Collins head of Equality Commission (NI) 23/10/07)
In a Revolution You Win or you Die
Interview with Cuban writer Ulises Estrada
Questions by Gűnther Pohl, translation and introduction by Marion Baur
Ulises Estrada Lescaille (born 1934 in Santiago de Cuba) has Cuban and Haitian roots. Like many people from the eastern provinces of Cuba he was involved in the struggle against the dictatorship. After the victory of the revolution he became deputy-leader of the secret service which was then headed by Comandante Manuel Piñero, who was involved in the preparation of “Operation Fantasma” in Bolivia.
Ulises Estrada went to support several national liberation movements in Africa during later years. He was Cuba’s ambassador in Jamaica, Yemen, Algeria and Mauritania.
During the time of the Allende –government he worked for the Cuban embassy in Chile and became its military leader during the fascist Pinochet-coup in 1973.
He worked for “Granma Internacional” and was editor of the newspaper “Tricontinental”. Since his retirement from newspaper-journalism he has been writing books, his latest one “Tanja – undercover with Che in Bolivia” was first published in Australia (2005) and recently in Germany. The amazing piece of literature sparked off my writing-cooperation with Gűnther Pohl. The articles for the German “UZ” and “Unity” (see Unity, October 6th, 2007 the article is also on the CPI website) here in Ireland have since been reprinted by a number of publications.
Gűnther asked the following questions, I translated the interview into English.
Q. Ulises, there are several books about Tamara Bunke or “Tanja la guerillera”. Why did you write another one?
A. I wrote the book “Tanja la guerillera y la epopey suramericana del Che” as a tribute in defence of her political thinking. This thinking has lead her to give her life during the struggle for a just America, free of merciless exploitation. But it is also a book in honour of Nadja’s (Tamara’s mother, MB) struggle to defend a truthful memory of her daughter.
Q. It is being said over and again that Tamara and Che had a relationship, some even say there are children. Is there any truth in that?
A. Lies of this kind have been published in several books about Che. My book was written to tear these lies into pieces. They are being told about the heroic life of Tamara by the mercenaries of imperialism, the enemies of the revolution, the lovers of the dollar at all costs. Those people are not able to understand what the life and the example of Comandante Che Guevara meant for Tamara Bunke, his example shaped her into Tanja first, then into the guerillera. The same example inspires those who raise the flag with his picture today and at every corner of this planet where people scream against injustice.
I have written the book, aiming to honour the men and women who still fight in Latin- America today and who defend the legitimate interests of their peoples, no matter what the revolutionary way they have chosen looks like.
Q. You toured Germany with the book recently. Was that important for you?
A. Tamara was Argentine but also German, her father was a German Communist. That’s the reason why I introduced the book in 16 German cities right across the country. The Germans need to get to know the story of the wonderful struggle of one of their fellow citizens during the 20th century. The presence of people from all levels of German society at the events and talks made the effort well worth while.
Q. What message has Tanja la Guerillera for us today, 40 years after she has been murdered? Is there an up-to-date-relevance in a time when the armed struggle has been given up in most places?
A. The example Tanja set when fighting side by side with Che Guevara and his Bolivian, Cuban and Peruan comrades in the ELN, the army of national liberation, has left an inextinguishable trace within the political – revolutionary life of Latin-America.
These comrades have proved that whoever wants to end capitalist exploitation, the cause of alienating human beings and stripping them of their most basic rights, must be totally devoted to the cause. This struggle means unfavourable conditions, sacrifices, and the firm decision to go the path Che outlined to the very end. En una revoluciōn se triumfa o se muere – in a revolution you win or you die.
The armed struggle suffered many rebounds not just that of the ELN in Bolivia and in Peru, also in Argentina and other places. Let’s not forget that the rebound during the attack on the Moncada-barracks sowed the seeds which lead to the victory of the Cuban revolution during the following months.
And let’s not forget that revolutionary men and women in Columbia are still singing the songs of freedom with guns in their hands today, fighting a corrupt government which – side by side with the drugs-bosses – betrays the interests of the people and is a willing servant of US-imperialism.
It was the Guerrilla-struggle in Venezuela which developed the very patriotism of the parts of the troops around Hugo Chavez which made them take up the arms and rise. This attempt was defeated but just a few years later they used different means to achieve the same ideological and political goals. That established the Bolivarian Revolution in this country.
President Evo Morales is now reaping the fruits of the titanic struggle by Che, Tanja and the heroic fighters who gave their lives in Bolivia 40 years ago: For the first time in history an indigene person is in power. His steps are firm; he has chosen revolution as his path.
Let me tell you: In various ways and everywhere in Latin-America, the flame of revolutionary liberation is burning!
The political heritage of Che, Tanja, Turcios Limo, Fabricio Ojeda, Massetti and the many other Latin-American martyrs is alive – it is so alive that their revolutionary ideas will lead the peoples of Latin-America to victory; in a time not far away at all.
(Reprinted from Unity newspaper of the CPI)
From The Media
Although the Dublin bus strike has been called off the struggle of the workers is not yet over. All republicans and socialists should support the just cause of the workers
Ireland: Dublin Bus Workers’ Strike - their story
By P. Bowman in Dublin
Monday, 19 November 2007
Dublin Bus management triggered off a strike of 500 bus drivers last Monday, November 11th, at one of Dublin's biggest bus depots when the company suspended a bus worker who refused to drive a bus on a new route. The company was trying to unilaterally impose new work schedules on the workers in order to cut costs. The workers claim that this would lengthen their working day by two or three hours without compensation. The workers are located in Harristown depot, near Dublin Airport, 11 kilometres from the city centre. When the depot was inaugurated two years ago, the company agreed with the workers that all drivers would start, break and finish in the depot. The agreement, however, was verbal, and now the company denies there was such an agreement. The company is clearly lying. That agreement has actually been the normal work routine since the depot started to operate two years ago. The company, however, unilaterally decided to change that arrangement on two new routes they were planning to introduce last Monday, 11th November. Drivers would start and finish in the city centre, over an hour away from the depot, around which, the unions claim, workers have developed their lifestyle. They park their cars, start, break and finish. There, they have a restaurant, a credit union and a gym (Irish Times, 10 Nov 07). In order to minimize the labour conflict that this change could create between management and the workers, the company hired 70 new workers to manage the new routes. The idea was to create a two-tier system, distinguishing between new and old workers. The workers and their unions (SIPTU and National Bus and Railworkers Union - NBRU) understood rightly that this could be the beginning of a worsening of working conditions for all bus drivers and opposed the move. Last week, and after nearly one year of negotiation with the workers, the company announced that the new routes would start on Monday, November 10th. They argued that a labour Court recommendation issued on October 22nd had ruled in favour of the company's position. The unions replied to this ultimatum with a union ballot (Friday, November 9th). The majority of the workers in both unions opted for full strike action if the company suspended workers who refused to accept the new work schedules. Willie Noone, SIPTU branch organiser, said that, "Our members will be reporting to work normally and will do so, unless the company forces them to operate on the new routes... If disruption does occur it will be because the company tries to change rosters and working conditions for drivers unilaterally." (Irish Times, 11 Nov 07). But on Monday the company suspended a female junior worker who refused to accept the new working conditions. Immediately, the rest of the workers in the depot came out in solidarity with her. A veteran bus driver on strike reported: "Everyone turned up on Monday morning to work as normal. We only walked out when one of our junior colleagues was suspended. Had that not happened, the garage would still be working, and if the suspension is lifted and the disputed rosters put to one side for now, the buses can be back on the street within hours. FYI, the working week in Dublin Bus starts on Sunday, not Monday, however junior drivers do not work Sunday, so the company deliberately held back on starting these routes until Monday morning in order to try to press a junior into doing the work. When she stood her ground, the result was inevitable." (https://www.indymedia.ie/article/85040) The whole point of the workers is that they have being suggesting better arrangements, so the workers wouldn't have to increase their working day and the management of the routes could also improve. The following account, by the same worker, illustrates very well who is to blame for any disruption created in the Dublin public transport system and the complete lack of efficiency of Dublin Bus management. It illustrates very well too that bus workers are much better qualified to manage the company by themselves: "A year ago the company called in the union reps and informed them that these routes were going ahead and straight out asked how much money we wanted to work them. We told them to stick it because it wasn't about money, it was about working time. In order to be flexible, we offered them a skite of compromises. We offered to break in the city and asked only that we be allowed to finish where we start so as to avoid the extra hour on our working day. When that wasn't acceptable, we offered to redeploy staff to city centre garages to split the bases from which we worked in order to avoid the extra hour a day. When that wasn't acceptable we even drew up alternative schedules conceding 90% of what we were being asked to do, and that wasn't acceptable either. I don't know about you, but where I come from, a 90% compromise is pretty generous. "What's actually happening here is a turf war, but it's not between the unions and management, but between a dozen or so people at Dublin Bus HQ and everybody else, including, I suspect, the management of the individual depots. Dublin Bus has always been run from the depots, not O'Connell street. Management staff there have, by tradition, always been the kind of bright young things who spend their careers ritualistically progressing from one promotion and pay rise to the next and never really contributing anything of any substance to the day to day running of either the company or the city. That's fine, and generally they're let get on with it. The problem is that every five or six years they take a brain storm and actually try running the company. When that happens, chaos ensues. In this instance, somebody in O'Connell street looked at the union's proposed schedules, realized that they would actually work and then started worrying that if they were accepted, Minister Dempsey might scratch his head and wonder what the hell he was paying head office staff for. It's the kind of thing that happens in every business, public or private, and when it does, somebody always gets caught in the middle. The only question is, how do you react if you're the one who gets caught. "All that is required is that those drivers who start in town, finish in town, and that those who start in the depot, finish in the depot. That's it. Problem solved, and the unions have already presented schedules that do that. These buses could have been on the street months ago, but HQ staff vetoed the union proposals because they were union proposals. Privately, the scheduling officers in Dublin Bus (ie, the functionaries who actually draw up the timetables) have admitted the schedules proposed by the company are, in any event, unworkable. They require, for example, a driver starting in town to leave Harristown and travel to the city centre in 45 minutes on the number 27B (the bus which serves the garage), the official running time of which is actually one hour. This, of course, leaves the driver with two choices: either he can come in early and get an earlier 27B (for which trouble, of course, he will receive no pay, since he wasn't asked to do that) or he can leave the garage at the official time and be late picking up in town. Since he will be picking up on a cross city route, this means that the driver he is relieving will have been sitting in the city centre with a bus full of irate passengers waiting to continue their journey for at least fifteen minutes, and probably longer. In addition, since it will take at least an hour to get back to the garage after shift, then every shift will finish late and every driver will be claiming overtime, which will make a massive payroll bill anyway. "It's idiotic, but it's being forced through because a group of David Brent types in O'Connell Street figure it's necessary to justify their existence." (https://www.indymedia.ie/article/85040) The bus drivers also understand, rightly, that their best chance to win this struggle and stop the "bullying bosses" would be to spread the dispute to other garages. The company fears an extension of the strike and through a spokesperson has said that they would "seriously consider all its options" if unofficial pickets are placed in other depots (Irish Times, 13 Nov 07). It is unclear what "all its options" means. Since the beginning of the "lockout" the media and the company keep reporting on the 60,000 commuters affected by the strike and putting the blame on the workers' shoulders. They are trying to stop any show of solidarity with the strikers from other bus workers and from commuters. On the other hand, the chairman of the Labour Court, Kevin Duffy, had talks on Wednesday with Dublin Bus and trade union representatives. He warned the unions "strongly that any escalation of the dispute to involve other Dublin Bus garages would make an intervention by the Labour Court more difficult (Irish Times, 15 Nov 07)." All this pressure is affecting union leaders. Michael Faherty (general secretary of the union NBRU) has also warned several time in the media that the workers' strike could escalate to other garages through unofficial pickets in the event that workers could get frustrated unless the dispute is not resolved within a couple of days (Irish Times, 13 Nov 07). This warning was directed at Dublin Bus in order to reach a quick agreement. But it also expressed the real fear of Faherty that the workers might be ready to put up a real fight. Over 300 bus drivers, actually, organised a protest in Dublin city centre on Wednesday. They marched from Parnell Square to Dublin Bus headquarters in O'Connell St. The bus worker Owen McCormack, one of the organisers of the protest, said that the workers on strike are getting great support from colleagues from other depots. He added, "We are not going to be split and not going to be isolated." (Irish Times, 15 Nov 07) But the problem is that both unions have branded any escalation of the strike as unofficial. In the meantime, the right wing TD Paschal Donohoe, from Fine Gael, said on Wednesday on RTÉ that the bus routes, which are the centre of the industrial dispute, should be offered to private operators. He also demanded that the government intervene more actively in the dispute (14 Nov 07): "If these particular routes are not going to be used by CIÉ, we should be tendering those routes out to other operators who are going to use them, so that we can ensure that all of the passengers on the northside of Dublin are not being held hostage to the inability of Dublin Bus to make two routes work." This is where the real threat lies. The state is one of the partners in Dublin Bus, but its management is private. In the last years, according to one of the bus drivers on strike (https://www.indymedia.ie/article/85040), no fewer than 110 private bus routes have been authorised. However, he goes on: "There are not 110 private bus routes operating around Dublin, or anything like it. Indeed, many of those licences are gathering dust in desks somewhere because having secured them, the hackers are just sitting on them, much like the taxi drivers used to sit on their plates and sell them on later." Private bus routes only start to operate when the routes are profitable. Dublin Bus, with state funding, must cover the routes that are profitable and the ones that are not. But the long-term aim is to fully privatise the whole public transport system. To do it, however, Dublin Bus must break the resistance of the workers, and then worsen their working conditions and lower their wages. Our bus driver also understands what is the general tendency of privatisations that the Irish government has been implementing: "Forget the PD [Progressive Democrats] claptrap about the forces of the market... If you think we're bad, just wait for what follows." Another poster in indymedia.ie added: "First they came for the bus drivers. You didn't give a shit, you don't drive a bus. Then they came for the airline workers. You didn't give a shit, you don't fly a plane... Wait 'til they come for you." The struggle of Dublin workers must become the struggle of all Irish workers against the wave of privatisations happening to this country. We cannot let them down. From http://www.marxist.com/ Monday, 19 November 2007
Independent Workers’ Union:
Supporting the Dublin Bus Drivers
The Independent Workers’ Union extends its support and solidarity to the workers of Dublin Bus at Harristown depot, who find them selves standing on a picket line due to uncompromising bullying tactics of the management of Dublin Bus (Bus Ath Cliath). By this ‘1913 lock-out’ style approach; the bosses seek to break previous agreements reached between the Unions’ and the management. This is the latest in a substantial number of infringements on the rights of the workers right through Ireland. The concerns and the actions of the workers are just. Despite the selective and censored projections from the right-wing media.
The new rosters being forced by the bosses, force the workers to start, break and finish work in the centre of the city. This situation breaks previous agreements and furthermore it will add between 2-3 hours extra a day onto the work load of those drivers effected. These new roster have not been previous viewed or agreed by the workers effected. This situation must be seen for what it is, a hostile act against the workers in an attempt to break the power of worker solidarity and union.
The biggest concern for Unions though, is the fact that Dublin Bus bosses have openly stated that any previous agreements do not extend to new workers. This is a direct tactic of creating divisions between the workers and weakening the Union and the level of worker solidarity. Yet this is an all too familiar occurrence happening up and down the country.
We in the I.W.U. commend the actions of the drivers on the picket line. We must also warn the workers as a class, that days of disputes and strikes lay ahead as the Celtic Tiger implodes in on itself. Those that will be effected will be those who created the Celtic Tiger through their labour, those who did not see the benefits of the Celtic Tiger, those effected will be the workers. In the coming years, workers will be squeezed and enchained to get as much labour as possible for as little as possible by the boss-man. Let us unite; and end worker exploitation.
Independent Workers Union
32 County Sovereignty Movement.
Contact: Andy Martin, Director of Publicity
Phone 07512 748 176 or Email email@example.com
Support the Raytheon 9
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement call for all republicans, socialists, anti imperialists and all other progressives to attend the trial of the Raytheon 9 in Derry. The trial is due to begin on Monday 19th November at 10am and we would urge as many as possible to come out not only in a show of solidarity with the 9 but to protest at Raytheon’s continued presence in Ireland also.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement fully support the actions of the Raytheon 9 in opposing this purveyor of weapons of mass destruction that have caused so much devastation to communities in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.
In opposing this multinational killing machine we do so not alone from a moral and humanitarian position but also from a political one. These nations right to national sovereignty, free from external interference and aggression is being denied and Raytheon are complicit in this denial.
It would be hypocritical for any republican organisation to fail to condemn Raytheon’s presence in Derry considering the fact that Irish sovereignty is being denied by a foreign government who will use force of arms to protect their illegal occupation if necessary.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement send special solidarity greetings to the four members of our Liam Lynch/Patsy Duffy Cumann in Derry who are members of the Raytheon 9.
Wed 12th Dec 2007: Human Rights Day (10 Dec)
The Crying Sun (2007)
Addresses the impact of armed conflict in Chechnya through the stories of people disappeared/ displaced from the mountain village of Zumsoy, highlighting villager’s struggle to maintain cultural identity and traditions. (26 min.)
*Discussion to follow chaired by Dr. Stephen Ryan*
Full details on the INCORE Conflict Documentary Film Festival are available at www.incore.ulst.ac.uk/pdfs/filmfestival2007.pdf
A DAY AROUND
*Watch crafters working!
* Enjoy demonstrations of old techniques!
* Take a valuable piece of crafts home!
On Saturday, Nov.24th 2007
At The Flax Mill, Derrylane, Dungiven
From 10 am – running all day.
Local genuine crafts only, no dealers, no products from child-labour.
Tea and refreshments.
For details phone Flax mill textiles 02877742655
Note: A day around the loom is a private event. There is no entry-fee and the owner reserves the right to refuse admission
No Volverán is a 90-minute documentary made by members of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign when they visited Venezuela in December 2006. While there they witnessed Hugo Chavez's landslide election victory and they also spent time at Sanitarios Maracay, a factory under co-operative workers' control.
The JCDS have been able to snag the directors of No Volverán and convince them to talk about the documentary, so we will be organising a showing of the film followed by a Q&A session.
This event will be taking place at 7pm on Tuesday 27 November in the Felons' Club.
And for anyone who's wondering, the Debating Society will be organising a debate (shock horror!) in the next few weeks on how leftists can effect radical change in the 21st century. Obviously the ongoing revolution in Venezuela is relevant to that debate.