Workplace struggles and the unions

Texts from the Workers Solidarity Movement

General articles

Anarchists and the trade unions - Be active - be involved
Trade Unions are important organs of the working-class. Gregor Kerr - a member of the Irish National Teachers Organisation who has been involved in campaigns against "social partnership" and in many strike support groups - argues that trade union involvement should form a central part of the political activity of all anarchists.

Anarchists and the Trade Unions
Trade unions were founded to defend the interests of workers, but today have become more and more dominated by an unaccountable, and often unelected, bureaucracy

WSM position paper on The Trade Unions

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Unions - how can the 'democratic deficit' be tackled?

The leaderships see themselves as a protected elite, and many union members feel powerless to do anything about it. Rulebooks are often written in such a way as to make it as difficult as possible for ordinary members to influence how decisions are arrived at.

Syndicalism : Its strengths & weaknesses

The main organisational form in libertarian politics today is syndicalism. Alan MacSimon, a delegate to Dublin Council of Trade Unions who has also attended a European gathering of revolutionary unions looks at the potential, and limits, of syndicalism.

The two souls of the trade unions [1995]

Union activists are facing new management attacks but the trade union leadership speaks only of partnership with the bosses. Des Derwin, member of the Executive of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and of the Dublin Private Sector Regional Executive Committee of SIPTU gives his personal view on the two souls of the unions.

Break this law Industrial Relations Act [1991]

A ban on strikes in 'essential services'. That was the call from the bosses and conservative politicians in the wake of the ESB workers dispute. The PDs and the Greens made reference to treating the ESB workers 'like the army', TDs from the main parties talked of a ban on strikes in 'essential services'

How much change can we achieve within the unions [1993]

There is a great potential power in the trade union movement. According to the Department of Industrial Relations in University College Dublin (DUES Data Series on Trade Unions in Ireland) 54.6% of employees in Ireland are trade union members.

The anarchist origins of May Day [1995]

Not many people know why May Day became International Workers Day and why we should still celebrate it. It all began over a century ago when the American Federation of Labour adopted an historic resolution which asserted that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labour from and after May 1st, 1886". In Italian as Le origine anarchiche del Primo Maggio

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Workers fight for useful jobs

Jobs are under threat all over the place. It is not just ones that are useful to us; that are chopped. There are also workers in plants producing weapons, nuclear power, and so on whose futures are far from secure

What the Lucas plan proposed

Over a period of two years a series of proposals that later became known as the Lucas Plan were drawn together through the active involvement of most of the workers in the 15 different Lucas factories. Its aim was to shift Lucas Aerospace, away from the production of military goods and towards the production of socially useful goods

Northern workers paid less [1996]

Workers in northern Ireland are paid less then workers in Britain or the rest of Ireland.

Strikes increase [1996]

The state is pleading with the union leaders to put a lid on the recent increase in strikes. Will the rank and file workers be able to stop this happening.

Trade Union news [1997]

Rank and file opposition continues in SIPTU

Review : The Labour Movement and the Internet

The internet - viewed by some as the highway to the future, dismissed by others as an over - hyped toy with little practical value. Conor Mc Loughlin reviews a new book on the internet and its use by the labour movement.

Workers have the power

In the WSM we're often asked why we spend so much time talking about the working class. Even the title of our paper, Workers Solidarity, seems a bit odd to some - why are we talking so much about workers? Isn't anarchism for everybody? And aren't we all middle class now?

Inside the unions

Did you hear about democracy in SIPTU? Neither did we!

Democracy in SIPTU? A nice idea but one we will have to fight for.

Why Mick O'Reilly was victimised

He has been a thorn in the side of the Irish government and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) bosses, being the only member of the ICTU executive to consistently oppose the 'social partnership' deals.

Democracy for our unions

Do we just want to change the people at the top of our unions or do we want to change our unions? Text of a leaflet distributed at 'Rank and File Conference - Social partnership: Claiming Back Our Unions', Sat. 10th Feb., Teachers' Club in Dublin

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April 17th - Tackling the 'democratic deficit'

An article by WSM member Gregor Kerr originally written for 'Teachers United Bulletin' which is being distributed at the Teachers trade union conferences this week

October 7th - SIPTU's Dublin Public Sector Regional conference

SIPTU's Dublin Public Sector Regional conference (SIPTU is the biggest single union in the 26 counties public sector) took place at the beginning of October in Jury's Hotel. Friday night saw the conference kick off with a speech by Bertie Ahern* and an spontaneous walkout by seven delegates
by Alan MacSimoin

Red and Black Ireland

News of Anarchism in Ireland

The Ainriail mailing list carries the latest news from the WSM and the struggles anarchists are involved in. There are never more then 8 posts a week (and normally only 2-4). We post printed articles to it shortly after they are published.

More details!

National deals

CPSU rejects PPF revision [2001]

Civil and Public Service Union has voted by three to one to reject the PPF revision to compensate for inflation

Mind your own Business: Economics at Work [2001]

Workers today face a sustained barrage of economic arguments and terminology which goes way beyond the old 'industry-speak' language of classical collective bargaining. Our bosses speak constantly of partnership and want to set up participation councils

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If TDs can get a £10,000 pay rise, why can't the rest of us? [2001]

Secondary teachers, rail signal workers and Aer Lingus cabin crew are just some of the workers who have taken on both their own bosses and the government. They aren't buying into the nonsense that we are all equal partners with our bosses and are all getting a fair share of the booming economy. Suddenly there is a chorus of very rich employers and their paid economists telling us that the great Tiger economy won't stretch to a wage rise that you might actually notice in your pay packet.

Laughing all the way to the bank [1991]

ALTHOUGH workers have been getting a bad deal out of the PNR and now the PESP in terms of pay the same can hardly be said for Irish bosses. In 1989-90 many executives got increases of 20% according to a recent Irish Management Institute survey.

Solutions to the the jobs crisis? [1992]

For the past five years the main plan touted to combat unemployment in the 26 counties has been the PESP (Programme for Economic and Social Progress) It involves the unions restricting pay demands and industrial action. This strategy has not worked. Uunemployment has risen. At the same time Ireland's Gross National Product has broken all records.

You need another PESP like a hole in the head [1993]

THE IRISH Congress of Trade Unions is to hold a special delegate conference on September 30th. It will decide whether or not to enter into talks on a further agreement to replace the Programme for Economic and Social Development.

Lessons of Trade Union Fightback [1994]

Following the vote on the Programme for Competitiveness and Work at the end of March, the Trade Union Fightback (TUF) campaign was wound up. Here Gregor Kerr, an INTO member who was secretary of TUF, looks at the history and lessons of the campaign.

More con trick than Concession [1994]

Top Trade Union leaders like Phil Flynn, Billy Attley and Peter Cassells have been working flat out to get the employers and government to agree another national deal for pay restraint.

Significant minority say NO to union leaders [1994]

The PCW is about pay restraint, job losses and promotion of a fictitious 'partnership' between workers, bosses and government.

Competition or con [1995]

Ireland is the 19th most competitive country in the world

Some people are doing all right [1995]

IRISH WORKERS enjoy fewer holidays than anyone else in the European Union, work longer hours than workers anywhere else apart from Britain, and suffer the highest rate of long term unemployment in the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD)

Review: Trade unionism's dark soul [1997]

The trade union movement has two souls. The first derives from the activities of members to improve their lot and control their unions. The second is the dark soul consisting of the activities of leaders whose only concern is to maintain industrial peace and harmony, often at the expense of 'their' members.

SIPTU Fight-back and National Partnership [1999]

For over a decade the unions have been in a partnership with the bosses and state. This partnership means promising not to strike on a wide range of issues while accepting low pay rises. The problems with partnership are obvious and at least 1/3 of the unionised workforce has voted against previous deals. However partnership has severely eroded 'shopfloor' organisation as little is left to local meetings except individual cases.

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Some lessons from the 'Campaign Against A New Partnership Deal' [2000]

THE WORKERS Solidarity Movement have, since their inception with the Programme for National Recovery in 1987, identified 'social partnership' agreements as a major problem.


Partnership fight provides real opportunity for return to activism in teachers' unions [2000]

Activists in all three unions - INTO, TUI and ASTI - have united in "Teachers Against Partnership"

Specific disputes

The Bank strike: What went wrong? [1992]

BANK WORKERS went back to work on April 27th. After three weeks on strike they voted narrowly to accept a revised offer from the big four banks.

What happened in the An Post dispute [1992]

The An Post dispute which ended in June should be seen in the context of a fight against casualisation by a well organised workforce. The resignation of the left from the Outdoor branch committee demonstrates that even at the lowest levels of the union a relatively strong left presence can be muzzled by the rule book.

Turn the anger into action [1993]

The Cahill Plan is a devastating attack on workers' conditions in Aer Lingus and its subsidiaries. Unlike Digital, where £4 million was promised to try and save 800 jobs, the government are offering Aer Lingus £175 million in return for 1,500 redundancies

1913 Lockout replayed at Pat the Baker [1993]

LAST MARCH twenty five workers at Pat the Baker's Cherry Orchard plant in west Dublin joined SIPTU. They wanted to improve their lousy pay and conditions. The company, owned by Pat Higgins and based in the Longford town of Granard, responded by sacking them.

Interview with a Pat the Baker striker

Review: Remembering the Lockout [1993]

The 1913 Dublin lockout happened when the bosses got together to try and smash the ITGWU, workers who were members of this union were locked out. The workers held out for a year, fighting the combined forces of the bosses, the church and the cops. In the course of which they set up one of the first armed workers defense forces, the Citizen army.

Keeping the blackleg truckers out [1994]

Workers at Nolan Transport in New Ross joined SIPTU in January 1993. Working hours averaged 15 per day, six days a week. Pay was £2.00 - £2.50 per hour. It was six years since their last wage increase.

Explosion in Cork Harbour [1994]

The explosion and fire at the Hickson chemical plant in Ringaskiddy, Cork, last August, has gone down as one of the most serious industrial accidents in Ireland to date.

Letter - Rail strike averted [1994]

TEAM workers told not to expect a decent job [1994]

The causes of the job cuts and attacks on workers conditions in TEAM are international. They come about as a result of European integration and the drive for the various European airlines to be merged into a few super airlines.

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Lets get together

Hicksons chemical spill [1994]

The company at the centre of last year's explosion and fire in Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork, pleaded guilty in July to three charges of negligence and improper handling of hazardous chemical substances

Wexford strike declared illegal [1995]

WORKERS AT Nolans Transport in New Ross have been told their strike is illegal. They have been in dispute since February 1993 for better pay, better conditions and union recognition.

Irish Building workers ripped off in Germany [1995]

Thousands of Irish building workers have gone to work in Germany over the last few years. As European integration proceeds, German contractors are increasingly turning to foreign workers. They want foreign workers because they are cheaper, unorganised and easier to push around

Strike victory at Dublin store [1995]

On Friday February 17th, following a 3-week strike in defence of a colleague who had been unfairly dismissed, eight MANDATE members at Knightingales store in Dublin's ILAC Centre returned to work victorious.

Trinity College SIPTU [1995]

Spy Cameras and pensions that give you no money were on the agenda when the SIPTU members in Trinity College met for their annual general meeting in March.

We all want early retirement [1995]

On Tuesday May 23rd, approximately 15,000 teachers marched through Dublin as part of their campaign for early retirement.

Cork Workers Strike Against Low Pay [1996]

Workers at the Early Learning Centre Toy Shop, in Cork, have been on strike since early December. Management at the Cork store, have refused to recognise the workers' union, Mandate, or to negotiate on pay and conditions.

Cork strikers need support [1996]

The Early Learning Centre strike continues, what can be done to help it win.

Early Learning Strike won [1996]

After a long and bitter strike the Early Learning Strikes have defeated the bosses in Cork. We report on this victory.

An Post strike [1996]

An interview with a striker during the recent An Post dispute

Building workers win ... SIPTU and Ryanair [1998]

TWO HUGE STRUGGLES broke out earlier this year. One was for union recognition at Ryanair, the other was against the black economy on building sites. Both showed that ordinary workers are prepared to fight. The biggest union in the country, SIPTU, seems to have done its best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Members of a small union, BATU, defeated one of the biggest construction firms.

The Dublin lock-out of 1913 [1998]

The formation of the syndicalist ITGWU and the lock out of 1913 that followed it.

Strikes free bricklayers from jail [Spring 1999]

On October 21st William Rogers was arrested. Dave McMahon had been arrested at dawn the same morning. Word spread and bricklayers from other sites began walking off the job

Social Welfare Bill 1999: Hassling people into very low paid jobs [Summer 1999]

The Scheme Workers Alliance organises people on employment schemes to combat cutbacks and win the extension of part-time workers rights. We speak to the SWA about the upcoming Social Welfare bill.

Make your boss rich and lose your job [Autumn 1999]

BECTU has accused the owners of Ulster Television of casualisation after they announced 35 redundancies at the start of the summer.

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Aldi strike [September 2000]

The strike at the Aldi supermarket on Dublin's Parnell Street came to an end on Friday August 18th. It marked the end of a bitter three month struggle for union recognition

ASTI: teachers show the way but we need solidarity, not 'special cases'!

The secondary teachers took more than a few politicians by surprise. Regarded as the most conservative of the three teachers' unions, they were not expected to be leading a movement to break the PPF wage limits. Yet, that is exactly what they have done.

Athy factory occupation [2001]

As we go to press, workers are still occupying Peerless Rugs in Athy. The plant had closed on July 4th


Vampires in America [1993]

The old Eastern European legend says that a vampire must be willingly invited into the house of its victim, and once invited in has its victim in its power. Members of the Teamsters Union (America's largest general trade union) might well ponder this legend.

Aer France Workers show the way [1994]

Workers in both France and Ireland were told they would have to accept redundancies and worsening working conditions for the sake of the company. In Ireland it's called the Cahill plan, in France it was the Attali plan.

General strike in Spain [1994]

Spain was closed down by a general strike in January. An Irish worker in Barcelona, and activist in the anarchist National Confederation of Labour (CNT-AIT) union, sent us this report.

French show how to fight... and win! [1994]

Edouard Balladur and his government have been in retreat over the last six months as the people of France take to the streets to demonstrate their anger at new policies.

This is not SIPTU [1995]

The Central Organisation of Swedish Workers (SAC) is a union which describes itself as syndicalist and libertarian socialist.

Swedish trade union stays Libertarian [1996]

A recent discussion in the SAC saw the union reaffirm its libertarian politics

Interview with the SAC [1997]

Kevin Doyle of the Workers Solidarity Movement interview's Lars Hammarberg, an organiser with the Swedish syndicalist union the Central Organisation of Swedish Workers (SAC)

Review: The Spanish CNT and the struggle in Puerto Real [1995]

This pamphlet is based on a talk by Pepe Gomez of the CNT's Puerto Real/Cadiz section given in London in October 1993. It is based on the long running battle between the CNT and the shipyard bosses.

French Workers Take on their bosses [1996]

The strike wave that rocked France in the closing month of 1995 is yet another example of the great fighting spirit of the French working class. Yet when we look at the causes of the strike and the relative weakness of French workplace organisation the question that emerges is 'if they can do it, why can't we'?

Bengali workers fight 7-day week [1996]

The National Garment Workers Federation which has links with anarcho-syndicalists unions is fighting against a 7 day week.

Liverpool dockers strike [1996]

The Liverpool dockers are now coming up to one year on strike in their heroic struggle against the logic of capitalism.

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The Liverpool dockers fight on [1997]

After over 18 months the Liverpool dockers are still fighting for their jobs, January 20 saw an international day of action in support of them

250 Million children forced to work [1997]

Nearly twice as many children are working full time in developing countries as previously thought, according to the International Labour Organization.

Disney & McDonalds linked to $0.06 per hour sweatshop in Vietnam [1997]

Australian union bans Indonesian ships [1997]

Australia's powerful Maritime Trade Union launched rolling bans on Indonesian shipping to protest against the arrest of Indonesian trade union activists

The unemployed are on the march [1997]

A European March against Unemployment, Job Insecurity and Exclusion has been called by a wide coalition of unions, unemployed and political groups. Eleven separate legs of the march will arrive in the centre of Amsterdam on the afternoon of June 14th, to coincide with a European Union Inter-governmental Conference

Massive strike shakes Denmark [1998]

The end of April and the start of May saw a massive strike wave in Denmark. Almost half a million workers went on strike, including almost all industrial workers and most workers in transport and building.

Liverpool passes the baton to Australia - Dockers are fighting back internationally [1998]

The Liverpool dockers were forced to end their dispute after 28 months in January of this year. Throughout their struggle the dockers had identified the attack on them as part of an international attack on dockworkers and on workers in general. On April 7th the main docks company in Australia (Patricks) sacked its entire workforce of 1,400.

Russian workers beat off armed attack on occupied factory [1999]

On July 9th 1999, eighty masked, uniformed gunmen accompanied by the local prosecutor and other officials tried to storm the Vyborg Pulp and Paper Mill, under occupation by its workers for the past eighteen months

Syndicalist unions in Siberia [2001]

Recently we received details of one of the newer syndicalist unions, the Siberian Confederation of Labour (SKT).

Spanish Anarcho-syndicalists demonstrate in Madrid

A figure of twenty to twenty-five thousand demonstrated on December 2nd in what is the largest so far of a series of mainly 'black-and-red' demonstrations carried out in Madrid and other Spanish towns over the last few years.

Workplace issues

Accidents will happen? [1994]

Workplace accidents rarely happen. They are caused. It is equally the case that workers end up taking more than their fair share of blame when things do go wrong

World Unemployment [1994]

Nearly one out of three workers in the world's labour force either has no job or is earning too little to live decently, the International Labour Organisation reports

37% illegally underpaid [1994]

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Can we take on the multinationals? [1995]

How do we deal with powerful multinational firms who often have an international income greater than the Irish government? If we end up having to strike they can often pack their bags and move to another country; where they will receive another round of tax breaks, free workforce training and preferential treatment.

Employment Equality Bill [1997]

The Employment Equality Bill effectively gives schools and hospitals which are controlled by either of the churches the right to discriminate on the basis of marital status, family/parental status, sexual orientation, race, religion or membership of the Traveller Community

Looking after the rich and looking down on the workers [Autumn 1999]

How comes the bosses can claim tax back on their membership subscriptions but we can't?

Irish Workers Worth Double Their Wages Says Employers' Study [Autumn 1999]

IRISH WORKERS are undervalued by 50% according to an international study published earlier this year.

Workers copy TDs and demand an extra £250 a week [2000]

These three motions were passed in January at the annual general meeting of Public Service Executive Union

Confessions of a store grunt [2000]

There are approximately 236,400 people working in the wholesale and retail trade. Most of us working in this sector are badly paid, as unskilled labour usually is

May Day poster

PDF file of the poster

Tell others about May Day

Print out and distribute your own May Day posters and leaflet/pamphlets.

You can download and print out PDF files of the poster shown right and/or the leaflet on the left (the text of it is 'A history of the Chicago events'. Print out 1 or 500! Give them out at May Day marches, conferences, gigs or just leave them pinned to notice boards.

PDF file of the poster

PDF file of the leaflet

May Day leaflet

PDF file of the leaflet


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