"When such and such talks about industrial action I have to laugh. I can't afford to go on strike, I'm married with kids and a mortgage"
How often have you heard those sentiments expressed in your workplace? How often have you agreed with them or expressed them yourself?
The truth of the matter is that if we sit back and let the bosses chip away at what little we have then we will hardly be in a position to do very much when push comes to shove. Translink staff from Belfast City Bus, IJlsterbus and Northern Ireland Railways have learnt this lesson. fhe majority of staff told an employee attitudes survey by the LRA (leaked to the press) that the only way to change managements opinion was to take industrial action. A sizeable proportion went further claiming that industrial action was necessary in all disputes with management if staff were to get anywhere.
Bosses and workers interests can never be the same, nor is there any happy medium to be reached. We are a resource, like electricity, and like all other resources the bosses want the most work out of us for the least money - thus maximising profit. Profit of course being the wealth WE create by our labour.
This is the brutal logic of 'industnal relations'. When the facade drops (for those employers who used one) the only language bosses understand is not 'partnership' or 'conciliation' but action. What we need is the will, and organisation, to fight.
The absence of any real will to fight on the workers behalf by the Trades Unions, and its results, is highlighted within the pages of this Rebel Worker.
WHAT _ ~ IHAUEHA~E R'SH R16HTS ~D A D,5hUL W} WE STANDARD OF UVIN6 NAVE? ~
Yes, negotiate by all means, but always from a position of strength, and our only strength is industrial strength - the ability to withdraw, or linnit, our labour. Workers need to build links in the common struggle against the bosses, we must build solidarity and with it a determination to win.
Reformist unions cannot deliver, we need a Syndicalist alternative. Syndicalist unions are based in the workplace, with workers directly in control of their own struggles. They are based on industry rather than trade, thus avoiding division between workers m the same work place. They rely on direct action and direct democracy to function. Ultimately we, as workers, would do away with the injustices of capitalism by replacing it with Workers Control of society.
We are not in the position as yet to establish such unions. In the mean time members of Organise! - IWA will be encouraging workers direct participation in their struggles, and the building of meaningful solidarity in the workplace.
Workers have to ask the question, when does it get to the stage where you can aiTord not to take action? Especially when we have children to support, mortgages and bills to pay, and while we still have jobs to defend.
The current controversy over decommissioning has proJected in stark relief the divisions that continue to exist among the politicians. The institutions that were to be set up as part of the agreement have yet to materialise.
It is to be welcomed that mainstream ptramilitaries are on cease-fire. It is far better that people are talking (or shouting) at each other as opposed to pulling out guns and plugging people who disagree. But unless there is real equality, real freedom, delivered for working class people in the North then this is about as good as it will get.
The recent sectarian killing of Brian Service by the so called Red Hand Defenders and the Omagh bombing bring into stark relief the cost in terms of lives, bereavement, crippling injury, and devastation caused to working class people and their communities over almost thirty years of sectarian violence.
The politicians arrive. express their condolences and absolve themselves of responsibility for a situation which they in no small way helped to create.
Two diarnetncally opposed nationalisms cannot peacefully co-exist, you cannot have 32 counties of Gaelic Mist and a forever Pope-free true blue bigoted Ulster. The
current Assembly set up reinforces nationalism, both Irish and our version of British nationalism, and gives bigotr the cover of 'tradition', or culture .
Remember what happened at Montupet, remember what happened at United Technologies, remember what happened at Coates Yiella in Lurgan? We will still be in shit jobs, with shit pay, and no amount of Gaelic signs at Stormont or refusing, or not, to speak to Sinn Fein Assembl members will change that.
When the committees are up and running, what will become apparent to most is what politics of this kind is really ahout. When our hospitals are downgraded. when jobs are cut, when factories close and when the unemployed are again targeted by the nch and powerful. And we haven t even started to approach the parades issue uith any sense of maturity or common sense.
When all this comes to pass (as it inevitably does), working class people v~ill find that Qvrng the Tricolor or donning a Sash will not be enough to stop our local community representatives from pulling the plug on scrviccs and industnes throughout the North. Revamped Storrnont?... More like a case of back to the future!
130 jobs are to be axed when Safeways shut down their branch in Armagh city on the 5th December, and staff have been offered a redundancy package ``hidl has bffll branded a "joke and an insult" by Eamon ()'Neill ofthe Shop Distributive and Allied Workers' EnioD.
The staff are fighting for better redundancies, but the tactics being used in this struggle are more indicative of the inadequacies of Trades Unionism than they are based on any possibility of success. It is a sorry state of affairs that workers are reduced to gathering petitions and talking with 'powerfill' politicians, rather than exercising their own industrial muscle.
The closure of the Thomas Street premises will bring to 600 the number of jobs axed by Safeways in the NorLh recently. 60() people thrown on the dole, many with families and dependents, ali with bills to pay, is more than just a "joke and an insult". It is an attack on working class people and their communities, and bosses have gotten av~ay with these attacks for too long.
Much more useful than peti(ions and grovelling to the polaicians would be the use ot industrial action against closures and lay-offs right across the Safeways chain. This t~pe of action, v.ith the struggle being c,uried out directly by the workers themselves, and not any Trades Union bureaucracy which could at any time sell them short. provides then only strategy which offers a hope of taking on the bosses.
Staff at RCO Technologies on west Belfasts Glen Road have been laid off. This attack. terrnulating the contracts of many of their workers, came just days after they were treated' to a day out, praised in performance reviews and receiving a pay rise. The company has cisimed lay-offs are the resuh of reorganisation' and they are operating a 'last in first out policy". Workers have claimed that this is not the case.
So even when you think things are on the up this case proves yet again that the bosses and workers can never ha~ e the same interests. Fellow workers take heed. NEVER TItUSrr THE BOSS!
The EC Working Time Directive comes into force in Northem Ireland on the 23rd of November. The directive has been heralded as the biggest change in employment law in years and is of course being welcomed by the official union movement as a good thing'.
It is certainly going to bring changes to the working environment of many of us but forgive us if we are a bit dubious of a law which claims to help workers. Uhen has this ever been the case'?
V.ry brictly the diroctive allows aduits who work more than six hours a day a guaranteed day off a week, 11 hours consecutive rest every 24 hours, and at lea.st one work break each working day. I hose who have worked for an em,oloyer tor more than 13 w ceks will be entitled to a minimum of 3 weeks paid annual leave. Workers over minimum school leaving age and under 18 are entitled to two days off a week and I 2 hours consecutive rest every 24 hours, effedively cutting out the option of overhme. .\lost workers ~vill oniv be able to work
_ ... . a person works is nothing more than an attack on theu eamungs, something of major concern to workers, especially those of us who are low paid and find it a struggle to make ends meet. At present it is a harsh reality that many of us rely on overtime to raise our families, pay our mortgages and rent, and meet other of ~ crippling expenses.
Of course we are opposed to overtime. AnarchoSyndicalists demand a shorter working week and a living (as opposed to bare minimum) wage in the short (erm. We simply need a good enough basic wage in order to do away with the need for overtime. This diredive attempts to deal with the issue arse about face. Workers control being (he only long term solution to our problems.
There are of course certain legal constraints that employers will find themselves under as a result of this directive. This is only a very brief look at some of its implications. concerned workers should acquaint themselves with this document, and in as far as is possible, use it as another weapon with which to beat the bosses.
The House of Lords has gutted regulations which prosed workers trom mass sackings as pan of a transtcr deal. Six teachers appealed their sackings as part of a deal transferring their school from Lancashire to SL Helens in Scotland. L''nder the Transfer of I-Tndenakings (Protedion of Employrnen() Regulations 1981, the currcnt boss can'( sack worker as part of a transhcr allowing their new bosses to take them on again at worse pay and conditions.
However the House of Layabouts says differently. Unions will have to take each workers case to an industrial (riburtal before thoy can challenge the sackings. Since tribunals rarely give people their jobs back. tough lick., the boss can name his conditions. if you are taken back at all. But don't worry, UNISON are looking at "imaginative ways'' to take the case to the European C ourt of Justice. S o that's all nght then. \\hile they are using their imaginations, watch your backs.
Two council workers were attacked by sectarian thugs while cleaning at the JunCtion of the Falls Road and Broadway, in Belfast. The men, a sweeper and a driver tor the city coumcil. were set upon in thc carly hours of Tuesday I 0th Novomber, hy 3 loyalists. The same men are believed to have smashed the windows of several houses on Broadway Road before running mto the Village.
This is another in a long Ime of reprehensible sectarian attacks on innocent workers from both communities.
Industrial relations have been hotting up' in the Co. Down port of Warrenpoint this summer, with locked out workers fmding that their union-busting employer is now [7 million out of pocket due to an unfortunate accident.
The incident could not have greatly upset the 24 members of the ATGWL who were dismissed and locked out oftheirworkplace at Jenkms Shipping Ltd aRer protesting about a colleague berng ur¢airly sacked.
Ihe workers' shop steward had lodged a complaint with the company and was rn the process of discussing the companies reply, when he was summoned bY a compamy representative.
The shop steward w as (old that he had fiYe minutes to get his men back (o work. ARer mtorming the company that his members were still considering their next course of adion, The ATGWU rep was told to get off the premises as he was sacked and now trespassing on private property. This was extended to the other 23 ennployees concerned A picket of the company cosued with the 24 men protesting about both their unfair dismissal and unqualified scab labour being used for dangerous industrial work.
After several days of stalemate with both sides talking to the local press and throwing accusations at each other, an event occurred v hich brought It home to management what it teht like to have their livelihood interfored with.
In the early hours of a Saturday mommg around the end of luly, a fire was reported at Jenkins Shippmg warehouse. By the time the fire crews reached the building the fire was already unstoppable. After 3 days the firc was still gomg and 16 firc crews trom a 11 over the North were still attempting to keep the blaze under control. All in all, the company is thought to have lost £7m m darn Ąges.
And who were the culprits'? Was rt a case of industrial sabotage, arson, or faulty wiring? Nobodv seems to know... and that includes the RUC forensics personnel who rcportcd that thc cause of the blaze remains unknown.
'fine spate of umofficial adions which have arise over so-called 'I.abour Only Sub-Contractmg' (LOSC) refled the anger of many building workers. particularly the bricklayers, at the nse of the 'black economy', the shadowy underside of the Celtic I'iger's property boom.
First a bn of background. Thcrc are approximately 120.000 uorkers m alnstruction, making it Ireland's largest industry. I say approximately because no one appears to be sure exactly how many there are. According to the Plasterers l;nion, about 45.000 workers have tiled as 'scif-cmployed'. Officially, however, only 21,000 workers have made retums as 'self-employed'. The total number of builders v,-ho filed retums. both PAYE and LOSC. is only 86 0 00. That means at least 34,000 workers are missing, as tar as the state is concemed Some union sources believe the figure for the black economy' could be higher7 as much as 64,000, based on the Revenuc Commissioners overestima(ing the number of PA~rt workers.
A common scam in the industry is tor workers to continue to claim social welfare while getting paid cash-in-hand on site. To get around the tax laws. they fi0 out B sub-contracting form using a false name. According to workers in the industry, v~hether
registering as self-employed is done legitimately or not, most workers have little choice in the matter. They have a higher take-home pay, but they lose a range of benefts, including absolving their bosses from paying contributions towards PRSI and the industry's peniion fund. They also lose out on holiday and sick pay. The advantages to profiteering construction bosses are obvious
Building Workers agarnst the Black Economy emerged at the end of 1997 to get around the elaborate and financially costly machinery of the Industrial Relations AcL In a disputewith contractors C & G Cramptons, the bricklayers union BATU had to twice ballot the grand total of ten members, working at Dublin City Univers¢y, m order to satisfy the High Court. This cost the union £40,000. Cortvinced the restridive conditions of the Ad would not work in the building industry, members sought a differeot strategy. Their response was to go unofficial, staging mass pickets at Cramptons sites acn~ss Dublin. Though Cramptons got court orders, they never sougtn to jail the pickets, and even came to the table over the subcontrading issue with BATU.
The dual approach, with a rash of unofficial disputes on site organised by BWABE, and a legal challenge by BATU against the industry agreement which allowed LOSC, seemed to bear firuiL
That is. until the workers ran into the irmnovable object that was John O' Connor, millionaire property developer. Developers generally have a lot more to lose than contractors if there is a delay in oonstruction. Last August, when workers objected to the use of a subcontractor on O' Connor's Merrion Rd. site, they were sacked In response to this victnnization, BWABE began to picket this she, and another O'Connor development on Conyngham Rd. With his Capel Developments company facing a financial loss of £9.1 million because of the mass picketing, O' Connors brought in the lawyers, at~:~ptn-.g t.o stop Lhe pickauhg and implicate BATV in the dispute. Though the union managed to avoid the financially catastrophic liability, the core of BWABE is made up of BATU members.
This is why Davtd McMahon and Willie Rodgers were locked up in Mountjoy. They wanted to pay their taxes. Logically, the Irisb legal system threw them in jail for n.
As the government's much vaunted 'Fairness at Work' bill trundles towards Parliament, TUC bosses have suddenly got an uneasy feeling about 'New' Labour's commitment to the proposals. After the millions spent by the unions to ensure a Labour victory, h seems that furious lobbying by the CBI has succeed in watering down key proposal on union recognition. With 13 cabinet ministers out of 22 demsnding that the govemment stick by h's original proposals, what is Mr. Tony to do? Even the ultraBlairhe business union, the AEEU, has been making angry noises at attempts to water down the proposals. When the AEEU, which donated £1 million to the Labour Party for the last general election, breaks cover to attack the government, h is clear that there are some desperate men roaming the plush corridors of power in social democratic unionisrn.
Stephen Clarke, 58, was working near a computer controlled drilling machine when the accident happened on March 10 1998. His leg was caught between a piece of steel channel, which was being machined. and a roller conveyor. A vitsl artery was severed, and he died a short time later.
His bosses, S.C. (3raham, Rallinderry Rd., Lisburn. were fmed £850 for breaking heaKh and safety laws. Makes sense, doesn't it?
Alan Gillespie, chief of the Industrial Development Board, was sent on an all-expenses junket around the U.S. to seal Nordtern Ireland's brand' m 'a new, fresh and confident way in the language of business to business'. Ille trip cost £75O,00. The 'language of business to husiness'? TRF.RT.F.S Al J RO )11NI]!
Belf~t Ansrcbist sieck Cross ue helping coordinate the cunpargn, for BntSjD'~ only A - rchist prwner, in hol~L M" Bunsley, tmm Sbeffield, hu so f" serYed 41/2 ye~rs of 12 yeu ~ that vnLs lOO~.io politrcally motivated A cop he successfiffly sued ye us ago wu rnvoh~ed iD the pros ecu tiorL the evidence ag~inst Mask was a joke , ~ODg with tbo c huges and situatioD he was urested for. Support for Mt~rks fieodom is growing but more u Deedod. OD Mceday Decomb" 21st BoNist AsC will be ~nising un infomu ti<,n picket in ~~elf~qt city centn' to gaio attcotion for Muis cue in. I brrG wiii eIso be pickets in London, Sheffield and Dublin. For more debils plesse write to selfast ABC cio the Oqpaisel eddress listed in this issue of Rebel Worker. From a stateasent iesued by Beltaqt Anarcolst Ulack Cross (an Anarchdet ~c clsLss struggle pnsoner rupport grDup).
The 'National Garrnatt Workers Federatiort' it] Battgladesh, have issued an appeal for help followingthe recent devastating floods.
They are "still collecting clothes, medicine, dr' foods and above all badly needed money to supporl its members and their families." They demand the bosses pay an aid allowance equivalent to orte months wages, Tk30 as conveyance, change the working hours to 9.00am 6.30ptrt witEt I hourE lunch break. artd suspend overtime and night Ahifh "Demonstrations have already ocorrad in supporl of our demands, but we appeal to workers in all trade unions, women's groups and developmenl organisations abroad to send donations m the fonn of money or cheques."
Solidarity is badly needed - just because its not or, the TV news doesn't mean the devastation is over! Donations should be addressed to the FAU - Bonn, who are coordinating the relief effort for the NGWF. Send donations to:
FAU - IWA, "Sffch~rurt: NGWlr" WolfS Str. 10 Hbtterrhau~ 53111 BumL Genneny.
[!! ~ 3 111 I
As such Organise!-I\iVA has started a drive to raise £10,000 towards the opening of a Solidarity Centre in Belfast. Such a centre would be used to provide a forum where militant warkers can come together and begin to set their own agenda, beyond the confines of the reformist Trade Union movement. We see the promotion of direct action and working class self activity as of central importance. It is very much a case of putting our ideas into action.
This is not about substituting a premises for tne constructive work of buildirig a real revolutionary alternative in Ireland, but about providing a focus for activity and campaigns which can unite workers across the sectarian divide and briny them together in defence of their interests as workers. It is about the establishment, not of a political party, but of a movement where solidarity is not a mere slogan but the foundation upon which all of our efforts are based.
6:10,000 TARGET t: t 0,000 TARGET
The reecntly published Forbes' li~ of the worlds 200 richest people should give those lefties who fawn over Third World Natienal Liberation movements cause for thought
For included in h is none other than the 'people's president', Fidel Castm - idol to long distance revolutionaries in every outpost of armchair armed struggle. Castro. worth over S100 million, heads a tyrannical regime which has incarcerated political prisoners for up to thirty years. "Defend Cuba's socialistn" is a popular slogan with the American lef, and similar views ate prevalent among their ilk on this side ofthe Atlantic This gives an insight into what they mean when they say socialism.
Anoitber bloke with a worldwide fart club is Cyril Ramaphosa. Forrnetly a high rarJcling Trade Union bureaucrat, this African National Congress leader is listed as having a pemonal fortone of $25 million (Castro has of course had a head stan of 40 years on his South African brothers in sociaiism ). Mr Ramaphosa has amassed his fortune through investrn0ts in mining (known for particularly brutal working conditions) and brewing (oenounced in past days as a pillar of apartheid
"The creatures outside looked ffornpigio man, end from mantopig and ti~nn pigto man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which." Oeorge OrwelL Animal Farm.
With Desmonds & Sons in Derry cutting 225 jobs as a result of Marks & Spencas shlfling their clothes buying to the TbW World, the total number of job losses has reached 1400 in Northern Ireland As High Stroet shops seek to maintain their profit margnu, Third World textiles factories are beaarmng even danker pits of exploitation, with Thai workers beingpaid 50p perhourtornakc£99.99 bomber jackets. In the game of international capitalism, there are no winners. Unemploymern In the 'First World' usually means arpl hationinthe'Third World'.