Larkin laid to rest in state funeral

Saturday 31 August saw the state do its best to bury the soul and spirit of Larkinism through its official commemoration of the 1913 Lockout. While this was the official state event, there is no doubt it also had the support and the involvement of elements of the trade union leadership, although their level of involvement or control over the event is not clear.

Certainly this year has seen an array of excellent and worthwhile commemorations, in the form of new research, essays and books, new web sites, series of podcasts, radio debates, community television broadcasts, public meetings, events in local libraries, local history events and many more that reflect the resonance this heroic event has with working people today.

The state-led service (as this is what it felt like) failed to capture this mood. It deliberately had no connection with contemporary workers or struggles. It was deliberately apolitical. It did not celebrate Larkinism, because that would be to celebrate political, class-conscious, militant solidarity and trade unionism; that would be to celebrate a threat to the state itself.

The Lockout is less important as an industrial relations event than as the first time the working class in Ireland placed its demands at the centre and the heart of Irish politics and made itself the central actor. To celebrate that is to celebrate class struggle, something neither the state nor parts of the trade union movement are keen on, which could not avoid the political demands and challenges faced by working people today and the failure of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party to address these in any meaningful way. So they chose the safe and neutral option of wreath-laying, songs, readings, and re-enactments.

Even more disappointing, however, was the fact that G4S Security, a firm notorious for its use of precarious work and its horrendous prison conditions, is reported to have pulled from the crowd those daring to express a political view counter to those of Fine Gael or the Labour Party, having searched everyone on the way in—leaving the event with no need for people to dress as the DMP. Topped off with a VIP zone for the President, Fine Gael and Labour TDs, it left a feeling rather as if this was William Martin Murphy’s final victory over Larkin.

The state clearly sees the potential danger posed both by this commemoration and by those to come over the next decade. It sees the potential they have to mobilise and focus the anger and frustration of working people and to link the demands for better living and working conditions with the demands for sovereignty and control. This has set the tone for future state events: dull, disconnected, and unimaginative.

Crucially important for union activists to appreciate is that 20,000 workers do not bring themselves to the point of starvation for trade union recognition or for any pay claim or terms and conditions of employment. They go to such extremes for a political vision of society—socialism—that Larkin, Connolly and the unions involved represented. The Lockout was an intensely political event, pitting one vision of society against another, exposing the class contradictions within the national movement and radicalising what would later become the republican and socialist wing of it.

It is up to us, politically class-conscious trade unionists, to capture this mood and organise within our unions to reclaim the politics of Connolly and Larkin from those who seek to bury them.

Solidarity with the members of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland

The Trade Union Left Forum expresses its solidarity with the members of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland in rejecting the Haddington Road Agreement despite the threats and bullyboy tactics of the government.

The threats to cuts allowances and enforce compulsory redundancies by the Labour Party Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn and by Labour Party Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin by using the draconian Financial Emergency Legislation (Fempi) against trade union members is a challenge not just to ASTI members but to all public sector workers.

All workers need to stand together and resist this governments bullying and intimidation and to build solidarity with the members of the ASTI and those teachers from other unions who may take solidarity actions in support of the position taken by the ASTI members.

“An injury to one is the concern of all” – This is still the bedrock of our movement.

Will this Government guarantee the right to union representation for workers?

The Labour Party, in this centenary year of the heroic struggle of 1913, claims to be committed to providing the legal right to trade union representation and collective bargaining for workers with their employers. They claim it is part of the Programme for Government that they negotiated with their coalition partners, Fine Gael—though in reality all this commits them to is reforming existing legislation to be in line with recent rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

The relevant minister, Richard Bruton (Fine Gael), requested submissions on this subject earlier in the year and has made a commitment to bringing forward legislation to reform the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act (2001) later this year that will “reconcile Ireland’s constitutional, social and economic traditions, and international obligations, whilst at the same time ensuring continued success in building Ireland’s domestic jobs-base and in attracting overseas investment into the economy.” (Richard Bruton in a letter to the Youth Committee of the ICTU.)

Already, however, it is clear that this Government will not legislate for collective bargaining for workers and for the legal right to be collectively represented by an independent trade union chosen by the workers themselves. What is likely to be introduced is a reform of the discredited 2001 act that will allow transnational corporations, Ryanair included, to continue to consult their own dependent staff associations and to avoid any efforts by workers to achieve recognition for their trade union.

So, while there may be great fanfare from the Labour Party and its representatives in various trade unions, the devil will be in the lack of detailed mechanisms for legal trade union recognition and collective bargaining.

But what would we want if we could achieve legislative recognition collective bargaining?

First of all, it’s important to state that legal union recognition would not be the panacea for the declining strength of the movement. Many countries have a variety of mechanisms for this, yet in virtually every country in the western world unions are declining numerically and in strength. Why? Because the unions have failed to adapt to new forms of control and domination of workers by employers and have dropped the broader social and economic demands of the class in favour of sectoral professional imagery. Where unions are growing they are allied to community demands and struggles and are challenging the political system—such as nurses in California and teachers in Chicago.

But nonetheless the right to union recognition and collective bargaining is a recognised human right and has the potential to strengthen both our movement and our class, and so it is well worth pushing for. So what demands should we make? What would constitute progressive legislation on this issue?

For this right to be meaningful and possible for workers to achieve, more than just a right to be represented is needed. Legislation should include the following:

  • Recognition of union membership and collective bargaining as a basic human right
  • A legal right and a mechanism for compulsory recognition of a trade union for employees by employers
  • Broad outlines of what constitutes collective bargaining and negotiating mechanisms and an avoidance of minimal consultation-style frameworks
  • A clear understanding of a trade union as an independent registered trade union and not a staff association established by the management
  • The right of trade unions to have access to workers in their work-place, to ensure that all workers are given the right to organise a union free from intimidation
  • The right to have access to existing members where collective bargaining already exists
  • Protection for union members from penalisation, discrimination or disciplinary action for carrying out legitimate trade union activity
  • Legal protection for the collection of union subscriptions at source
  • Economically harsh fines and penalties for companies found to be in breach of the legislation, so that it is not economic to illegally avoid unions

These are not unrealistic demands—indeed many of these kinds of rights exist in Australia, New Zealand, parts of the United States, Britain, and other countries in Europe. However, we may be certain that anything this Government proposes, so as to keep their friends in big monopolies happy, will fall far short of them.

Legal campaigns will not win us this result either: it will require unions themselves getting serious about this issue and making it an industrial and, consequently, a political issue.

Trade Union Left Forum Pamphlet

To mark the one hundredth anniversary of the 1913 lockout the Trade Union Left Forum has chosen to reprint a number of James Connolly’s important articles on the politics of trade union organisation and struggle.

Connolly is without doubt Ireland’s great working class intellectual and organiser. His politics were unceremoniously class politics. To his understanding of history and his choice of strategy and tactics for his day he brought class analysis rooted in the works of Marx. He unapologetically represented his class in all aspects of life and struggle including union organisation, national freedom and cultural expression. Everything he did was with the aim of furthering the cause of freedom for working people, in which he understood the need to overthrow imperialism and build socialism – a society based in the ownership of the means of production by working people.

Trade Union Left Forum Pamphlet
Click the above image to download

Tadhg Barry Film – Saturday, 4th May – Triskel Arts Centre, Cork City

Saturday, 4th May at 2.00 p.m. in the Triskel Arts Centre, Cork City.

Using British Pathe film, historical photgraphs and documents an hour long documentary on the life of Cork trade union leader, socialist and republican fighter, Tadhg Barry, will be shown in Cork on 4th May.

Tadhg Barry Film - Saturday, 4th May - Triskel Arts Centre, Cork CityThe film covers his life from his birth place on the north side of Cork City, to his early years in the work force and his initial leap into journalism, and from there to his political enlightenment and work with the ITGWU, James Connolly and James Larkin to re-build the union in Cork and to fight for Irish Freedom.

Barry was active in the 1916 Rising and the film covers his transformation from military to political activist when he became an Alderman of the First Republican Council in Cork and Secretary of the ITGWU James Connolly memorial branch.

Jailed on several occasions, the film of Barry’s life also incorporates the burning of Cork and his final arrest and transfer without trial to Ballykinlar internment camp in county Down where he started the first ever Trades Council in a prison environment.

He was shot through the heart while waving good bye to fellow prisons sent out on release just three weeks before a general amnesty in 1921.

Footage in the film shows how Michael Collins left the ‘Treaty’ talks to attend his funeral.

Among the contributors to the to the film are SIPTU General Secretary, Joe O’Flynn, Tadhg Barry Galvin, great grandnephew of the late Tadhg Barry, Brenda Corcoran and other family members, Gerry White, Quarter Master and Historian with the Southern Command in Collins Barracks Cork and his biographer Dr. Donal O’Driscoill, the School of History, UCC.

The film is a joint production between the Cork Council of Trade Unions and Framework Films produced by SIPTU organiser, Trevor Quinn, Eddie Noonan and Emma Bowell.

Mobilise against sacrifice!

Trade Union Left Forum
Statement on Croke Park II

The Trade Union Left Forum commends the unions that fought for a No vote on the proposed new agreement and the members in SIPTU who passionately campaigned and delivered a No vote against both their leadership’s and the Labour Party’s instructions. The proposed agreement, which in its current form is dead, does not protect workers but would have facilitated a further undermining of terms and conditions of employment, hours of work and the incomes of working families throughout this country. This agreement was clearly designed to further sacrifice workers to pay off the billions in corporate and private debt that was socialised by the previous government and is being honoured by this one.

But this agreement is not over yet and it is likely that the Government will seek to impose broadly its content if not worse via legislation. And so, the No campaign must continue to resist and organise its members to fight any potential imposition of the rejected Croke Park II terms.

The content of the proposals is not just about the public sector: it is also designed to give the green light to private-sector employers to continue to cut benefits and pay, attack pensions, impose redundancies, and increase working hours. In essence it is for continuing the flexibilisation of labour in Ireland, particularly to benefit transnational exporters.

Whether the trade union leadership supporting the proposals is aware of this or not, they are in fact participating in a restructuring of the Irish economy to the benefit of global capital and the detriment of labour. These effects will be seen in the long run, but the fight must be fought now if it is to be prevented.

Be sure to come along to the TULF’s forthcoming discussion on “The Political Economy of Croke Park,” being introduced by Colin Whitston, in the TEEU offices (6 Gardiner Row) on Thursday 9 May at 6 p.m.

And for regular updates on the campaign against Croke Park see Unite’s blog at http://crokeparkreport.wordpress.com.

Campaign to Defend Trade Union Rights

A major campaign to defend trade union rights will be launched at the weekend with a rally in central London. Twenty-five national trade unions will unite on Friday to launch the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom (CTUF) organisation.

Thatcher-era anti-trade union legislation has left trade unions with their hands tied while the coalition launches unprecedented assaults on workers’ pay, conditions and rights with fierce cuts to health and safety and public services.

Labour failed to repeal the draconian legislation and in some cases actively tightened the laws.

Recent years have seen bosses exploit the law to prevent unions from taking effective industrial action in support of their members.

At the same time as workers’ protections are being eroded the coalition has also passed legislation which means that claimants at employment tribunals are forced to pay their own costs and restricted access to legal aid.

The new campaign aims to bring together workers from across all services and industries in both a head-on challenge to those politicians advocating further legal restrictions on union rights and in a mobilisation to roll back the anti-union laws.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said that for more than 30 years trade union rights have been cut away by successive governments “determined to silence the voice of ordinary workers.”
He warned that this had caused a growing gap between rich and poor and a dramatic decline in the wealth that goes into the pockets of working people.
He said: “The right to organise, strike and take solidarity action are fundamental tools needed for working people to attain a fair portion of the wealth they create.
“Only by winning back our freedoms can we win a fair settlement for working people. We support this important and timely campaign.”

CTUF director John Usher said that the campaign would fight for the introduction proper laws to give trade unions the right to protect their members and also seek to repeal the Thatcher-era anti-union laws.

John Hendy QC, a leading advocate for workers’ rights, said: “As the government slashes and burns everything that makes Britain a civilised country the trade unions have a vital role to play in Britain’s resistance. But legislation has tied them in red tape.

“The founding of the CTUF marks the next phase in the struggle to restore trade union rights and their freedom to lead the fight for working-class people.”

CTUF president and RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “After 30 years of Labour, Tory and Liberal governments taking the axe to trade union rights, and using mass unemployment as a weapon to shackle working people, the CTUF is about turning the tide and putting the right to take solidarity action back on the agenda.”

21 March 2013 by Paddy McGuffin Home Affairs Reporter, Morning Star

With no increase in the base wages, Japan won’t get out of deflation

Major auto and electronics makers in this year’s spring labor offensive have offered an increase in annual income, as requested by corporate unions, but no increase in the base wage because these Rengo-affiliated unions shelved a request for an increase in the base wage for four consecutive years.

To their corporate unions, carmakers, including Toyota and Nissan, on March 13 answered that they will grant an increase in seasonal bonuses. Leading electronics manufactures also answered on the same day that they will increase bonuses, though less than the amount their corporate unions requested, and will maintain automatic pay increases.

The need to get out of the deflation is, however, to guarantee an increase in the base wage since it does not go up or down in tandem with corporate performance unlike seasonal bonuses.

It is also important to upgrade wages of non-regular workers such as part-timers and temps in order to boost the economy driven by domestic demand. Despite comprising more than 30% of Japan’s workforce, many of them receive neither bonuses nor periodic pay hikes.

Meanwhile, workers’ unions under the Zenroren banner simultaneously went on strike across the nation on March 14 calling for higher wages and job security, following the outcome of the day before.

More than 70 unions under the Japan Federation of Medical Workers’ Union (Iroren) went on strike, and more than 200 unions took actions demanding wage increases. So far, 19 unions have won an increase in the base wage.

Members of the Telecommunication Industry Workers’ Union (Tsushin-roso) walked off their jobs at 131 offices of the NTT Group throughout the country in protest against the group’s response totally ignoring the union’s demand. The union demanded an increase in the base wage and an increase in the hourly wages of non-regular workers who constitute 30% of the group’s employees.

The All Japan Construction, Transport and General Workers’ Union (Kenkoro) on strike demanded that JR East Group increase wages and secure the safety of transportation. The union criticized JR East for worsening the working conditions by terminating contracts with contingent workers after a period of years and rehiring them to the group’s subcontractors.

Japan Press Weekly – March 14th & 15th 2013

Statement by the Belfast and District Trades Union Council On the sad death of the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez

Hugo ChávezThe Belfast & District Trades Union Council expresses its condolences and solidarity with the family and comrades of President Hugo Chávez, and with the people of Venezuela.

A leader of great courage, Hugo Chávez defied the rich and powerful across the globe by choosing to dedicate his life and the policies of his government to the working people and the poor. Where cowards flinched, Hugo Chávez stood proudly declaring himself a socialist, a man of the people, standing for real democracy, equality and justice.

Taking this position earned President Chávez the wrath of the world’s wealthiest, their crony governments’ and their toady media who propagated lies and venom against Hugo Chávez and the revolution. He challenged their hegemony, and exposed to the world that there is an alternative to the greed and avarice of neoliberalism.

President Chávez challenged imperialism’s cruel and barbaric domination by asserting national sovereignty, while working for unity in Latin America, and providing support to and solidarity with the disadvantaged across the planet. Through this model Hugo Chávez has provided an example for others to follow.

Progressive people across the island of Ireland and the rest of the world are mourning the passing of Hugo Chávez. We hope that his legacy grows and flourishes.

Standing on the shoulders of other giants, Hugo Chávez has carried the rekindled torch for the liberation of the humanity. It is now for others to spread the flame that will finally destroy exploitation, inequality and injustice for ever.

Kevin Doherty
Secretary
Paddy Mackel
President
Kerry Fleck
Vice President

Anti-Austerity Protest – Be Angry But Get Active!

Be angry but get active

Anti-Austerity Protest - Sat 9th FebThe Trade Union Left Forum calls on all workers to join the Irish Congress of Trade Unions organised protests on Saturday, 9th February, and make clear their opposition to the corporate debt imposed on Irish people and the ongoing attacks on the working class being perpetrated by Irish and European governing elites.

Protests have been organised in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Sligo, to commence at 1.30 p.m. It is vital that workers, students and their families make their voices heard at these events. The clear demand of workers’ should be for the repudiation of the illegitimate debt hoisted on Irish society by the banks and their political allies and for a change in economic direction by the Irish Government.

While it would have been preferable for the Irish trade unions to form a united front with workers’ organisations in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, the other European states who are on the frontline of the elite attack on working class living standards, the decision by the ICTU to call its members onto the streets is welcomed.

However, the Trade Union Left Forum believes workers must make clear that they oppose not only the neo-liberal agenda of the European Union but also the anti-working class policies of the Irish Government. In this centenary of the 1913 Lockout the protests on Saturday, 9th February, follows the recent Trades Council demonstrations and should be seen as part of the growing resistance in the tradition of James Connolly, Jim Larkin and the militant working class.

For further information on the protests visit www.ictu.ie