The strikers are members of the union SIPTU whose website is updated a few times a day so people can keep up to date with the strike in the press releases section : www.siptu.ie.
The Union's claim is for an increase in the basic hourly rate. Currently, full-time permanent operators are on a starting rate of £5.87 per hour going to £6.36 per hour over a ten year incremental scale. Part-time and casual members are on a static rate of £6.02 per hour. The average hourly rate is £6.00 per hour. The claim is for a starting rate of £8.00 per hour in line with the current average industrial wage.
Additionally, the Union is looking for a reduction in working hours. Toll booth operators work 12 hour shifts over 7 days, 365 days per year. The basic working week is 41 hours. The operators work long hours in small, cramped booths constantly processing traffic. The work is very stressful. The working environment is noisy and polluted with car emmissions. The Union is looking for a reduction in the basic working week to 37.5 hours.
The dispute started on May 15th when pickets were mounted on both bridges. Pickets are 24 hour.
Management and their spawn staffed the booths for the first two days. On Thursday, May 17th they employed scab labour. The Union learnt on Friday that management are paying school students (from the fee-paying Blackrock College) £8.00 per hour (the workers' claim) to break the strike! The compaany confirmed this on national television. The strike breakers have been escorted to and from the bridges by the police and have had food delivered from McDonalds.
Public support for the picketers has been overwhelming. However, workers in their thousands continue to pass the pickets and use the bridges every day. The Union is asking the public to use alternative routes and NOT to pass the pickets. If they do pass the pickets, the Union is asking people to frustrate the operation of the tolls by:
Other workers have supported the strike by not passing the pickets. For example, SIPTU members in Securicor have refused to pass the pickets and collect/process money from NTR. SIPTU members in Dublin Port have refused to pass the pickets and are refusing to lift the East Link bridge. No commercial vessel has passed through the bridge since Tuesday the 15th! SIPTU members in Irish Ferries, Stena Line and P&O Ferries have been handing out leaflets in English, Spanish & French on the ferries asking people not to pass the pickets and giving them an alternative route map. Members in Dublin Bus are balloting tomorrow on whether to refuse to pass the pickets. The Union is calling on the USI and USSI to appeal to students not to scab the strike.
The dispute is getting a huge amount of media coverage (especially local radio) - more than any industrial dispute in recent years. The company is lying about the dispute in the media. They spent c. IRP 50,000 on an ad campaign in the national newspapers this weekend. The Union is asking people to ring chat shows when they're covering the dispute and give their support. The media consistently reports that the dispute is not affecting traffic. This is not true - ring them and tell them so. Ring/e-mail the company and give them a piece of your mind.
The SIPTU website is updated a few times a day so people can keep up to date with the strike in the press releases section : www.siptu.ie.