Debt, inequality, and industrial action: The chicken or the egg?

Trade unions remain the most tangible and most effective way to reduce inequality. Unionised work-places tend to have fairer, more transparent and more equitable pay models, which provide pay increases year by year for workers above inflation. They redistribute wealth from the surplus value created by workers that would otherwise go to profits (or dividends and executive pay) to workers’ wages. However, as unions have weakened, and union density throughout the economy has weakened, all workers have suffered. Low pay has become more prevalent, inequality has grown, and contracts have returned to the more “flexible” model of the nineteenth century. […]

Worker militancy on the rise

A wave of workplace militancy has arisen in recent months which has produced a number of notable victories for trade unionists. The end of several years of muted opposition from workers to cuts to conditions and pay or doing more work without improvements in earnings – under the cover of ‘increased efficiencies’ – can be traced back to the industrial action by SIPTU members in LUAS in the early 2016. This protracted and bitter struggle resulted in a substantial pay increase for LUAS drivers, with the victory achieved in the face of unrelenting media attack. The win set a precedent […]

Important outcome from Labour Court

The Labour Court has issued an important outcome for Freshway workers in a case taken by SIPTU under the new legislation. On the question of evidencing union membership Joe O’Flynn, General Secretary of SIPTU, swore an affidavit in advance of the hearing to the effect that 63 of 170 workers were union members. The Court viewed this, 37%, as ‘not insignificant’ and passing the first barrier. The Company argued that they collectively bargain with an internal staff consultation committee but the Court found that it wasn’t an excepted body and that the practice was not collective bargaining as defined by […]

The strike is the key to union renewal and working class power

Reviving the strike – How working people can regain power and transform America By Joe Burns Available on pdf at http://www.tuleftforum.com/discussion-papers/ and for purchase at http://www.revivingthestrike.org/ Striking to stop production This is a must-read book for trade unionists and left activists. Though it deals mainly with the American labour movement and conditions there, its main points and recommendations easily apply in Ireland. The author, Joe Burns, is a union lawyer, negotiator and activist for many decades, most recently involved in the airline industry and health services. He is adamant that the movement needs to return to the strike as the […]

Greyhound dispute: your assistance is needed!

You will be aware of the bitter, protracted and ongoing lockout of 78 trade union members by Greyhound Recycling and Recovery. This dispute, which was provoked by the west Dublin based employer locking out workers who refused to accept a pay cut of up to 35%, will shortly enter its third month. From the beginning of this lockout strikebreakers have been employed by Greyhound to continue waste collections. The use of these strikebreakers has provoked outrage in many working class communities throughout Dublin. This has resulted in community actions being taken where local activists and elected representatives have halted Greyhound […]

The Problems with Work

Kathi Weeks New Labor Forum May 26, 2014 Despite my use of the singular in the title, The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries (2011) explores several problems with work. My focus is not so much on the difficulties of this or that job but on the failures of the system of waged work together with the values and ways of life that support and are produced by it. Some of these problems fit under three general headings: underwork, overwork, and non-work. The first and most obvious problem is that of underwork. In a society that […]

Raising Our Expectations

Jane McAlevey challenges the Left to stop lamenting its disappointments in the working class and address our own failures. Taken from Portside Labor Sam Gindin Looking back to the defeat of the labor movement since the early 1980s, three lessons seem especially important. First, any gains made under capitalism are temporary; they can be reversed. Second, the kind of unionism we developed in that earlier period of gains was inherently limited; it left us in a poor position to respond to the subsequent attacks. Third, absent new forms of working class organization and practices, fatalism takes over and worker expectations […]