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Greetings to IWU conference

category national | worker & community struggles and protests | press release author Friday April 07, 2006 21:05author by WSM IWU memberauthor email wsm_ireland at yahoo dot com Report this post to the editors

The 3rd conference of the Indepenedent Workers Union takes place in Dublin this Saturday. The Workers Solidarity Movement extends our solidarity and ongoing support for the work of the IWU.

Unity is strength

On the occasion of the Independent Workers Union’s 3rd Annual Conference, the Workers Solidarity Movement extends our solidarity and ongoing support for the work of the IWU.

Over the course of the past 3 years the IWU has firmly established itself as a force to be reckoned with. By standing firmly in the anti-partnership camp and by refusing to be part of the cosy consensus through which government has strangled much of the life out of the mainstream trade union movement, the IWU has done much to re-kindle the spirit of real trade unionism.

The displacement of jobs and the ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of employment standards has emerged as a huge challenge for the trade union movement over the past 12 months. Irish Ferries, GAMA, ESB, Spencer Dock have merely been the most prominent of these. Anecdotal evidence and the experience of IWU activists shows that super-exploitation is taking place all over the economy – and especially in the construction industry, and in the retail and catering sectors.

The response of the official trade union movement has been pathetic. Calls for the government to appoint more labour inspectors and for so-called social partnership to agree measures to ‘protect labour standards’ are worse than useless. The state will always serve the interests of capital, the only way in which workers’ rights and labour standards can ever be protected is by trade unions recruiting all workers into our ranks and by fighting aggressively to defend and protect employment standards.

The Independent Workers Union can be a leading force in this battle. The challenge facing us is to organise the unorganised, and to stand firmly shoulder to shoulder with all workers – Irish and immigrant – against exploitation.

A strong base has been laid over the past couple of years. As we move forward, the IWU can become a beacon of hope for the working class – an independent, fighting democratic union which is not afraid to stand proudly on the side of the exploited.

Issued by members of the Workers Solidarity Movement active in the IWU in Cork and Dublin

author by Realworldpublication date Sat Apr 08, 2006 01:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Now that the IWU claims to be stronger and more organised than ever how come come it has the unenviable and unique record amongst the Irish Trade union movement of being the only Union in Ireland that has never served strike notice -let alone go on strike?

Sorry for being cynical comrades but surely strike action against the bosses is the first step in being more bolshie more than anyone else or sadly are they just a shower of bluffers who regularly meet in the proverbial phone box.

How come also they never publish accounts or membership figures, like every other Union?

How come about 10 turn up at every demonstration?

How come about 20 will turn up at the 'National' confernce?

Reality check please or do you think we are all a shower of gomaloons

author by Bill Morrispublication date Sat Apr 08, 2006 15:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Over the course of the past 3 years the IWU has firmly established itself as a force to be reckoned with."


author by Liberty Hall Langerpublication date Mon Apr 10, 2006 15:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The thrust of this piece - that the top priority has to be to organise workers into unions - has to be right. My own view is that the last thing Ireland needs is more trade unions - we need better trade unions and trade unionists, and the IWU, at best, is a diversion from productive activity within the ICTU unions.

Anyway, enough of what I think. Could we have some membership numbers for the IWU? I know that numbers aren't everything, but they are interesting none the less.

Could we also have some idea as to where and in what sectors this recruitment is going on? I know there has been some activity in construction and in CIE, but are there any IWU organising campaigns actually going on?

SIPTU is starting to kick the organising ball around a bit, and so will the ATGWU once it is merged with Amicus. There is enough life in the mainstream unions to pull off a change to real politicised and organising unions (look at the SEIU in the US for an example).

author by Curiouspublication date Mon Apr 10, 2006 16:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"There is enough life in the mainstream unions to pull off a change to real politicised and organising unions (look at the SEIU in the US for an example)."

And what will be the political direction? Propping up Enda Kenny? Or being mute on Rabbitte's slur on Polish workers?

author by Bill Morrispublication date Mon Apr 10, 2006 18:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If the IWU had firmly established itself as a force to be reckoned with over the past 3 years I wouldn't need to use a search engine on Indymedia to find out about it.
A bit of realism is called for. I hope the IWU are successful in what they are trying to do but hyping up their activities does not do them any favours. I think it's very important that there is a new more radical union to put it up to the old bent unions.

author by Gpublication date Tue Apr 11, 2006 11:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The IWU is a new small union which stands outside the partnership consensus and is attempting to build a new radical trade union – no easy task in today’s world. Much of its work is aimed at recruiting and organising people in ‘precarious employment’. This often happens in terms of taking cases for people to Labour Court, Employment Appeals Tribunal, Rights Commissioners etc. – work that is far from glamorous but is of crucial importance for the individuals involved. The people involved in the union want to recruit workplaces and want to re-build a radical fighting trade union spirit. This can’t be done by a clicking of the fingers but takes a hell of a lot of work.

I would encourage all revolutionaries, radicals, anarchists and libertarians to join the IWU and help in the task of building what can become a new radical voice for workers.

This is my brief – unofficial – report of what happened at the Conference on Saturday. Maybe others reading this who were present could add their observations.

The conference was attended by about 50 people. It opened with fraternal greetings from the National committee of all Polish trade union workers’ initiatives.

The General Secretary (Noel Murphy)’s report included the information that the IWU now has over 1,000 members, 7 branches and 3 offices – in Cork, Dublin and Monaghan. Noel’s report covered a wide range of issues but the one which excited most reaction from members present was the information that the IWU has been approached by the ATGWU about a possible merger or some type of federal alliance. All speakers who responded to the report did so on this topic. One speaker said that we should listen to what the AT was offering but all others spoke against the idea of any merger. Responding, Noel Murphy said the reaction was such that ‘nothing substantial is likely to happen for a long time’.

Next up was a fraternal address by none other than Mick O’Reilly of the ATGWU. Having been warned of the hostile reaction to his marriage proposals, Mick referred much more to ‘finding ways of working together’ and ‘sharing resources and knowledge’. He referred to the T&G being in the process of merging with Amicus and GMB which will give them something like 2½ million members between Britain and Ireland and 130,000 members in Ireland. He was very much subscribing to the ‘big is beautiful’ school of thought and seemed to be attempting to win people over to the idea that an alliance of some sort would give the IWU greater muscle and access to resources. He was also disarmingly honest in stating that the AT is ‘trying to become an organising union after 80 years of being a servicing union’ and that basically they didn’t really know how to do so.

Under the ‘Labour legislation’ section of the agenda motions were passed on
· the Unfair Dismissals Act,
· Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act,
· Department of Labour affairs,
· difficulties with people getting their P45s,
· problems with workers being left off rosters,
· bullying in the workplace,
· trade union recognition.

2 motions were passed in relation to Housing – both relating to the lack of social housing.

Next up was a fraternal address by Aengus O Snodaigh TD of Sinn Fein who talked about SF’s commitment to workers’ rights and to working closely with trade unions – especially the IWU! He focussed particularly on the EU Services Directive and spoke of the need for trade unions to get more militant.

A number of motions were passed during the Public service part of the agenda – motions which
· called for An Post to develop a state banking service
· called for the tax take on banks to be doubled,
· called for disciplinary action to be taken against Ministers and government officials who squander public money,
· condemned outsourcing in the public service,
· called for gas, oil and mineral resources to be taken back into public ownership,
· looked for legislation to ‘place responsibility for the ethical production of goods and materials sold on their premises,
· looked for government funding for independent broadcasters and media

A very detailed Financial report was presented and this was followed by a Development report from Noel Murphy. Nothing controversial emerged from either.

The Organisation section of the agenda passed motions on
· publication of a ‘dirty rotten scoundrels’ list of employers who rip off workers
· branch organisation, branch representation on the National Executive and employment of full-timers
· establishment of self-organised groups by members of ethnic minorities
· condemning the Sunday Times for their libellous claim that the IWU was behind the recent Dublin riots.

One of the Polish comrades present, Radek, then gave a presentation on problems faced by immigrant workers and the particular challenges for the trade union movement in organising workers employed through employment agencies.

I had to leave at that point but there were still motions dealing with migrant workers, campaigns, the health service, the community and voluntary sector and partnership to be dealt with.

I think the conference highlighted a number of challenges and opportunities. Firstly practically all of the motions were aspirational and tended towards a ‘calling on the government to do something’ type of politics rather than outlining the way in which the union might go about campaigning on any particular issue. In reality of course, as the article above states: “The state will always serve the interests of capital, the only way in which workers’ rights and labour standards can ever be protected is by trade unions recruiting all workers into our ranks and by fighting aggressively to defend and protect employment standards.”

The motion passed in relation to structure provides, in my view, a great opportunity for the union to develop in a democratic, open manner. The motion stated:
“1. Each member of the union will be attached to a branch and will be invited to regular branch meetings.

2. At least 50% of the National Executive Committee will be branch delegates. These delegates will be directly elected by the branches, and will be mandatable and recallable. To facilitate this, the agenda for National Executive Committee meetings will be circulated in advance in time for issues to be discussed by branches and branch delegates to be mandated.

3.The immediate and ongoing objective of all branches of the union is to recruit new members. When a branch reaches a certain size, a full-time paid official will be elected. The logistics of implementing this policy will be discussed by all branches and by the National Executive Committee over the coming period with a view to having detailed proposals for Annual Delegate Conference 2007.”
Debate on the implementation of this structure will take place at branch level in the IWU over the next year. Why not join the union and participate in that debate?

Related Link:
author by Liberty Hall Langerpublication date Wed Apr 12, 2006 12:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks to G for the report. Glad to see that Mick O'Reilly of the ATGWU knows that his union has to change, just as SIPTU has to (and the other ICTU unions). Two big unions actively recruting, organising and campaigning in non-union Ireland might make the difference of a difference.

To Curious, Rabbitte did not make a racist attack on Polish workers. He did raise the possibility of a work permit scheme for EU workers - and I didn't think that was at all clever - but that is hardly the same thing. Rabbitte may be many things, but it is both unfair and simply inaccurate to call him a racist.

author by Still Curiouspublication date Wed Apr 12, 2006 15:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

He said:
"The time may be coming when we will have to sit down and examine whether we would have to look at whether a work permit regime ought to be implemented in terms of some of this non-national labour, even for countries in the EU...There are 40 million Poles or so Poles after all, so it is an issue we will have to look at".
I'm sorry but in my book that was a crass racist comment and we'll have to agree to disagree. One thing is certain though a politicised union won't have Rabbitte as an ally. His presidential address at the last Labour conference is a torchlight for his populism. I mean come on attacking, IMPACT probably the establishments favourite union, hardly augurs well, does it?

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