The strikers at 'Pat the Baker' have met with the sort of intimidation and violence of which William Martin Murphy and the infamous Dublin Metropolitan Police would have been proud. Management have refused to accept the 1991 Labour Court recommendation that SIPTU be recognised and have insisted instead that the workers are adequately represented by a so-called 'works committee'. This 'works committee' - based in the parent plant in Granard, Co. Longford - is chaired by Frank Sheridan who has been to the forefront in physical and verbal assaults on the strikers.
When the Ballyfermot strikers placed a picket on the Granard plant in mid-June they were kicked, punched, beaten with sticks, spat on and verbally abused by a gang of thugs led by Sheridan. Several of the strikers had to receive medical treatment as a result of these assaults. While many of the Granard workers were prepared to listen to the union's case Sheridan's thugs broke up any discussions by pulling the Granard workers away. It is clear that Sheridan and Pat Higgins (the owner of 'Pat the Baker' ) fear the consequences of a victory for the strikers.
Their fear is indeed well founded. Despite Higgins' claim that the workers are adequately represented by the 'works committee' conditions in 'Pat the Baker' are atrocious. Basic pay (before Tax) is as low as £139 for a five day week over six days with no extra pay for Sunday working. The shift premium is ridiculously low and there is no sick pay or pension scheme.
The workers currently on strike realised that the 'works committee' is nothing more than a management smokescreen aimed at giving the pretence of 'representation'. They stand in the tradition of generations of Irish workers who have fought against exploitation and sweatshop conditions. They deserve the support of every trade unionist and indeed every member of the working class.
The most tangible way in which this support can be given is through a boycott of all 'Pat the Baker' products. As well as the 'Pat the Baker' brand these include K.V.I., Five Star and Yellow Pack bakery products as supplied by Quinnsworth and Crazy Prices.
Workers in these must be balloted by their unions (SIPTU and IDATU) and a total blacking of these products organised. This should, in fact, have been done months ago. Unionised workers in Quinnsworth, Crazy Prices and other shops are handling scab bread from 'Pat the Baker' every day. A complete boycott of Pat the Baker produce and publicity material should be immediately organised. Workers, and all who support trade union membership rights can help to ensure the strikers victory by visiting them on the picket line in Cherry Orchard and by boycotting the scab products presently coming from 'Pat the Baker'.
In another ongoing dispute workers at Nolan Transport in New Ross, Co Wexford have been on the picket line for over six months, again in a battle for union recognition. Nolans strikers have also been subjected to brutal intimidation and violent attacks by company thugs. Again the key to winning the strike is through the effective blacking of all Nolans trucks - something which should have been done months ago by the SIPTU leadership. Workers at both Nolans and 'Pat the Baker' show that the spirit of 1913 lives on. It is unfortunate that Larkin's legacy has been forgotten by most of the present-day trade union leadership.