Day of action brings bin trucks to a halt

Oct 14 2003

This morning saw a day of action across Dublin against the bin tax. At depot after depot activists from the campaign turned up in the early hours of the morning to stop the bin trucks leaving. This act of defiance is our answer to the continued jailing of activists by the high court.

Yesterday three more women were jailed bringing the total number of anti-bin tax activists in jail to 15.If there was any doubt that the courts exist to keep the working class down this campaign has ended it. The newspapers are full of stories of millionaires ripping off the country and politicians taking huge bribes but none of these gombeens are jailed. Instead on day after day the High Court is sending working class mothers, fathers and grandparents to jail for protesting against the imposition of yet another unjust tax.

Last night a protest of around 150 took place at Mountjoy jail to protest the latest three jailings. There was also a demonstration outside the Council offices in Dun Laoghaire around the same time, reported to have been of about 500 people.

Pic: Crowd at Mountjoy protest

This morning I took part in the Grangegorman blockade along with over 30 others from the areas around the depot. We arrived to discover that overnight the bin trucks had been taken out of the depot and parked along the roads outside. If the council hoped this would stop us they were disappointed as we simply blocked the trucks where they were parked.

The bin workers in Grangegorman mostly live in the areas around it and are sympatric to the campaign. So they only made token efforts to drive the trucks away.

Shortly after 8am news came through that at the Collins Avenue depot a council vehicle had drove at the blockade, the campaign secretary Joe Mooney had been caught on the bonnet and carried some distance down the road before he fell off. This van was not driven by a bin man but by someone from another department. Joe, who is also the Chair of the East Wall Residents Association was taken to hospital and released around lunchtime.

Bin truck
Pic: Grangegorman blockade

When the bin men at Grangegorman heard of this their shop steward came over to say how sorry they were it had happened. Shortly afterwards news came through that in other depots bin workers who were refusing to break the blockades were being temporarily laid off, this happened to 2 in Dublin south and to 10 drivers at the Rathmines depot. But the time I left Grangegorman the bin workers had brought out cups of tea to the protesters.

Meanwhile back in Collins Avenue it was reported that the bin workers, who were furious about Joe being run over, voted not to work for the rest of the day. Some decided to stay in the canteen and 40 or so came out to join the blockaders outside.

Reports from the Dun Laoghaire/Sandyford depot are that after the blockade had been in progress for a couple of hours the workers had a meeting inside the depot and were then told/decided to go home.

It is now lunchtime and the state broadcaster is reporting that due to the blockades tens of thousands on bin all over Dublin will not be collected today. If the council or courts thought that jailing 15 people would intimidate the rest of us they have just been given a good lesson. The successful day of action, when most areas are not even facing non-collection yet, demonstrates that we can beat the council.

As importantly for the first time the bin workers have come out in open solidarity with the campaign in several depots. This confirms what we already knew, that most if not all of them oppose the bin tax, in part because they recognise that once it is imposed privatisation is likely to follow.

The problem they have is that while nearly all unions now have policy passed at branch meetings and conferences against the bin tax the union leadership is refusing to implement this policy. Some like David Begg, president of ICTU have even gone on the media to attack the campaign. The union leaders are wedded to social partnership and through this to the neo-liberal agenda that includes the bin tax.

Many bin workers are willing to take further industrial action but they want their unions to back them in doing so (otherwise they won't get strike pay etc). Many of the anti-bin tax campaigners are union members. Indeed many are union activists including some of those jailed to date. But the union leadership is standing in the way

In the short term we all need to look for ways that we can force the union leaders to back action. But the longer-term lesson here is not only that the current crop of union leaders are crap but that the union structures are as well. The union leaders have been able to not only ignore but also contradict the wishes of their members week after week. Today's events may have brought things to a head that they can no longer ignore. But after we have defeated the tax we need to look at changing these structures and getting rid of systems based on full timers who cannot be made to follow the member's mandate.

Joe Black

More reports and photos of this protest

More on the bin tax


Bin workers

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