Irish Ferries demonstrations - Magnificent show of solidarity


The old union motto "an injury to one is the concern of all" is taken more seriously by ordinary union members than by many of our "leaders". The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, sheltering behind the 1990 Industrial Relations Act which makes strikes in support of other workers unlawful, didn't call for a national walk-out. We knew they wanted us to strike and march but their over-cautious approach didn't exactly inspire workers with particularly aggressive employers.

Nevertheless 80,000 marched in Dublin, 15,000 in Waterford, 10-15,000 in Cork, 10,000 in Limerick, 3,000 in Tralee, 2,500 in Sligo, 2,000 in Athlone, 2,000 in Rosslare, and 1,000 in Galway. When we add in those who walked out of work but didn't get to their local march and those who attended smaller rallies like that organised at the last minute in Drogheda, we have about 150,000 workers taking part. This included many recently arrived workers from Eastern Europe, who are on the lowest wages.

Most of our unions are run by people who see their role as simply lobbying the government, providing services and dealing with individual members' problems rather than also fighting to improve pay and conditions. These people have no interest in conflict with employers or government, being the most enthusiastic supporters of 'social partnership'.

Our unions have fantastic potential. We have the numbers and we have the ability to close down the country. But as long as we place our trust in the likes of Begg and O'Connor that potential will remain untapped. They have us fighting like a drunk with one hand behind our back and the other in our pocket. The more weakness the bosses see, the harder they stick the boot in.


From Workers Solidarity 90, Jan/Feb 2005
PDF file of WS 90