Review: The GAMA Strike DVD


For almost a year Turkish workers at the multi-national construction company Gama waged a struggle to secure trade union rates of pay, improved working conditions and to reclaim wages which had been siphoned from their pay packets and placed in foreign bank accounts opened in their names but without their knowledge. A co-production by the Socialist Party and Frameworks Films, “The Gama Strike: A victory for all workers” is an attempt to document and highlight the exploitation and subsequent struggle faced by the Turkish workers.Following a trade delegation to Turkey in 1998 headed by Mary Harney, GAMA arrived in Ireland, enticed by tax breaks, and quickly earned itself a reputation for delivering its projects on-time and under budget. It wasn’t until 2004 when Socialist Party cllr. Mick Murphy made direct contact with Turkish workers that it was revealed through handwritten payslips that employees were being paid as little as €2.20 an hour (well below the legal minimum rate of pay within the construction industry of €12.96) combined with 80+ hour working weeks. Further investigations by the SP found the discrepancies in wages between what GAMA was paying and the legal rate were being transferred into Dutch Finasbank accounts without the workers knowledge.

Employees formed the Turkish Workers Action Group and its strike committee initiated a strike which was to last for 54 days. During the protracted strike, the DVD highlights GAMA failed attempts to break the will of the workers by using scab non-union contractors, starving, intimidating and threatening the workers into submission.

Eventually the issue was resolved following a Labour Court recommendation but what resulted was a mere industrial relations settlement rather than justice in any real sense of the word. Despite GAMA’s shenanigans, it has never admitted any liability or been prosecuted for its actions. Meanwhile the report from the Labour Inspector has never been published due to a High Court injunction.

The obvious danger which any documentary produced by a political organisation faces is that it can easily veer into becoming a piece of propaganda seeking to help an organisation make political capital out of a situation. Credit must be giving to the SP for avoiding this pitfall by its calling for greater grassroots trade union activity rather than stressing the need for a “mass workers party”.

Workers themselves felt that official trade union activity was too limited with union members continuing to work at GAMA sites in Ennis and Tynagh and supplies continuing to be delivered to sites. As Joe Higgins states, “If the trade union officialdom is too slow in moving, migrant workers and Irish workers cannot afford to wait, but should organise themselves for action on the immediate issues of exploitation.”

Clocking in at 73 minutes this DVD is a thorough and interesting account of the struggle incorporating interviews with the workers themselves and successfully highlighting the dark underbelly of the Celtic Tiger without over-emphasising the role of the Socialist Party at the expense of grassroots trade unionism or self activity.

The Gama Strike: A victory for all workers
DVD available by post for e10,00 or £7.00 from the Socialist Party, 141 Thomas Street, Dublin 8 or Socialist Party, 13 Lombard Street, Belfast, BT1 1RB

From Workers Solidarity 93, Sept/Oct 2006

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