Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Molly has often expressed the opinion that strikes are best carried out by the most militant methods possible, with the caveat that violence should be avoided if at all possible. In the long term view all strikes are episodes in a class war that demands both the greatest initiative on the part of the dispossessed and also the demonstration on their part of a superior moral sense.

A recent action in Dublin Ireland fulfills both these criteria. Supporters of the striking Dublin Port Workers have invaded the offices of Marine Terminals Ltd. Here's the story from the Irish Times.
Supporters of striking port workers breach Dublin dockyard gates:
IN an escalation of an eight-week dispute, supporters of striking Dublin Port workers breached dockyard gates in the south port yesterday, entering the offices of Marine Terminals Ltd.
Up to 600 marchers attended a rally in protest against Marine Terminals’ demands for compulsory redundancies and new pay and conditions at the cargo handling facility.

Marchers had heard that the owners of Marine Terminals Ltd, UK firm Peel Ports, had brought in outside labour, when about half of the attendance breached the company gates, shouting “Dockers in, scabs out.”

A number of people entered booking offices before a large crowd moved to the gates of a container yard, and then to Marine Terminals’ administration offices, where their way was blocked by a Garda.

Rally organisers asked the crowd to respect the Garda and not to cause any damage, while a number of speakers, including two members of Dublin City Council, addressed the crowd from the doors of the administration block.

Windows in the block were locked and blinds closed during the protest, but nearby cameras on Portakabins rotated to follow the crowd.(Oh really, I wonder how many of these cameras are set up to catch criminals in the rough areas of Dublin rather than protesters ?-Molly)

Earlier, Siptu general secretary Joe O’Flynn had told protesters that if a solution was not found to the dispute, damage to businesses in the port would spread to the wider economy.

He accused Peel Ports of “bullyboy tactics” against decent employees, many of whom had worked in the company for years.

Mr O’Flynn said the company has consistently set its face against serious engagement with the workers, “steamrolling through mass redundancies and threatening further job losses, as well as cuts in pay and conditions”.

Even before the strike began, he claimed, the company had brought in strike-breakers from Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“I can tell them now that we do not need investors with that mindset in Ireland and if they are not prepared to change it, they should leave now and hand over the facility to a company that will behave within decent business norms,” he said. (Uh, say "duh", a much better "threat" would be to say something about handing the business over to a producers' cooperative of the dockworkers. This, of course, is beyond the present horizon of the official trade unions )

Peter Bunting, assistant general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said members would “name and shame” the “scabs” in their own communities and addressed his comments in personal terms to a Marine Terminals manager, John Rafferty.

He was also critical of the media, saying that if the unions had treated the State’s industrial relations machinery with the same disdain as Marine Terminals had, the unions would be “excoriated”.

Messages of support were read from dockers’ unions in Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands, where it was claimed members of the FNV union occupied the head offices of Peel Ports’ subsidiary BG Freight at Bondgenoten for three hours from 10am to 1pm Irish time.

FNV has also served three weeks’ strike notice on BG Freight, as required by Dutch law, to begin industrial action there if the Irish dispute is not resolved in the meantime, it was claimed.
In a statement issued after the rally, Marine Terminals Ltd said “encouraging a crowd, including children, to enter a busy industrial site is dangerous and irresponsible and as a negotiating tactic can only be counter-productive.”

The company said “unions must recognise that, for the port of Dublin to remain competitive in a deteriorating market, changes must be made. Their intransigence will only hurt their members’ interests.”

A spokesman insisted six workers had been offered in excess of €70,000, while 16 had been offered in excess of €60,000 and “the average payout is €35,000 to €40,000”.

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times.

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