'Your Job is Yours as a Right. Fight and Fight Again for It!'
07 Sep 2004 00:57 GMT
The language of the IWU. Two journalists from Indymedia went to meet Ray O'Reilly from the Independent workers union, along with a couple of the Dublin Bus workers.This article covers part of that interview, the discussion on the Irish Trade Union movement and its constituent parts. Two journalists from Indymedia went to meet Ray O'Reilly from the Independent Workers Union, along with a couple of IWU members who work in Dublin Bus. This article covers part of that interview, the discussion on the Irish Trade Union movement and its constituent parts. "Your job is yours as a right." To read this in a trade union statement makes you feel like it must be labour history, not a letter drafted by the IWU to be sent to the Aer Lingus Workers about their current predicament. And yet Ireland's youngest union is the one that was smart enough to register the internet domain: union.ie and the letter is up on their website. They have overcome the main legal hurdle to establishing a viable trade union (a negotiating license) and have an evangelical belief in trade unionism that expresses itself in language that comes straight from the 19th century proletariat that gave birth to the movement. Ray talks of "...restoring the Trade Union movement as the organised arm and voice of working people." There is another funny thing about the IWU - When asked why they are different from other unions they talk of their principles as if they were a creed that was in danger of being lost. Anybody who has been following the Irish trade Union movement's squabbles over the last few years, especially ILDA's struggle for representation, will see the reason for the particular list of principles. But from the outside it reads like an indictment of the labour movement that these have become principles that differentiate one union from the rest. Surely the right to free association, the openness and transparency of the unions, the primacy of members decision making are going to be part of any trade union's core principles? Article continues here . . . Audio Clips of Interview • arm and voice - 16 seconds - 250k • I believe - 1 min 16 seconds - 1.2mb • IWU and Congress - 59 seconds - 937kb • In their place - 1 m 12s - 1.1mb • Indentured Servants - 16 seconds 263kb • SIPTU - 1 m 36s 1.5mb Related Articles on Indymedia • IWU Charter • Organising home helps in Cork • Inaugural IWU Conference • IWU members victimised in Dublin Bus Other Background Material • IWU Website • SIPTU website • Labour History of Ireland Archive • Irish Labour History Society Note on Links in story: Most links are to mp3 files which are hosted on radio.indymedia.org. On their website the IWU display the images of Connolly and Larkin, which is perhaps particularly justified given that they are possibly the only union using the language of Connolly and Larkin today. They see themselves as reclaiming the labour movement from the bureaucrats. When Ray talks about Connolly and Larkin turning in their graves if they were to know of what became of the ITGWU (which merged into SIPTU), he focuses on the issues that have coloured many people's views of SIPTU , especially in the airport and their sweetheart deal in Luas. Unions that manage redundancies for state companies and weaken their membership by removing their right to strike bring out more than the cynicism that most of us feel, his language reflects the anger felt at the state of the movement. The obvious question about working within the existing structures focuses on the need to have a union that was not in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which is classified as "an arm of the state." It is when we speak about Trade Unions and the state that I start to get a warm glow. I have heard many trade unionists complain about partnership with the bosses, about the corrupting impact of negotiating with government but when I ask Ray O'Reilly about the 1990 Industrial Relations Act his answer is much more straightforward on an issue that I feel is often overlooked: "laws are designed in democratic bourgeois societies like ours to keep the working class in their place". Now whether you believe this of all laws or not, I think few can doubt this was the purpose of the 1990 IR Act, and that it is pretty successful in doing so. I think that it is a huge failure of the labour movement - which I pay my dues to - that no-one else will say this. Maybe we should be charitable and say the reason nobody else is saying this type of thing is because they are scared. Maybe they feel that Ireland is not ready for the language of the 19th century labour movement to be used in analysing the reality of today's workers. But surely during the recent citizenship referendum the trade union movement could have offered the accurate analysis of our immigrant workforce as "somewhere between indentured servants and slaves." What could have happened? It seems that the IWU may be discovering what happens when you use language like this, when you reintroduce a trade unionism that many thought had long gone. They have members on suspension for distributing trade union material in their workplace. In Ireland in 2004 the HR representative of a state company can inform the nation on radio that this is justified, since these workers can only join pre-set unions. Individual workers in the company instinctively know that they should support the IWU members - but where is the movement? Where is 'An Injury to one is an Injury to All."? Maybe that is why they are scared, maybe the Irish Trade Union movement has forgotten what made it strong. But whether you are a member of a union or not it doesn't take too much to feel that the right of the IWU to have its language heard must be supported. Further material from the interview tapes will be released later. Copyleft for non-commercial use. Alternative versions available (OGG file is big) http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/sep2004/iwumayday_1.jpg