January 2013

The heckling of union leaders at marches is a serious issue that needs far more discussion on the left. To cheer-lead it is very mistaken. Yes, a factor is a genuine angry response from “ordinary workers” to the lack of action, and indeed past actions, of the trade union leaders. Union leaders who have been on the receiving end of heckling and booing need to realise that there are consequences attached to their “brave” decisions to support unpopular cutbacks and climb downs. They need to end their aristocratic outrage at being crudely criticised by the Democracy. But by what proportion has this factor (the noble mob) featured in the actual incidents? Among the most active hecklers, even where leaders from the left sought to defuse the heckling, there were some political activists and members of left organisations.

For the organised left there are two questions: how can we call on the union leaders to take actions and when they do support a march, put money into it, and join the platform, then tolerate, support or even encourage a verbal barrage against them on that occasion? Furthermore, how can we co-operate with all stages of the organisation of a march, jointly organise a march in fact, and then tolerate, support or even encourage a verbal barrage against some of the speakers agreed as part of the organisation of the march? What game is being played?

Secondly we need to ask if it is a good thing that we now have a situation where trade union leaders – of any hue – cannot address a public rally without being shouted down? To begin with, the recent barracking, at the CAHWT National Stadium rally and at the 24th November anti-austerity march, was the product of, or plugged into, an ignorance of the trade union movement, its configuration and its recent history. The speaker in the first case was Mick O’Reilly (a supporter of CAHWT) and in the second was Eugene McGlone. As it happens both together were the joint subjects of a high-profile case of victimisation by their own union leadership, with the possible involvement of figures outside their union, related to supporting workers in struggle and their general oppositional stance in the movement. Barracking Eugene McGlone as if he was a centrally influential member of the executive of the ICTU was like pillorying the robbed rather than the robber. That educated socialists should collaborate with this ignorance is disappointing.

In any case, the substantial question for the left is whether it is a good situation or principle that trade union leaders effectively cannot speak in public in Dublin at this time without being barracked? Let’s leave over–the-top talk of fascism aside. The question does touch on a growing contention that the union leaders are the enemy, or an enemy (the main facilitators/agency of privatisation and austerity), rather than a conservative bureaucracy within the workers’ movement subject to pressure from the members below as well as from the employers and the state. Presuming the latter, as I do, means that, especially in a phase like the present when independent action at shop floor level is unlikely, moving or persuading or assisting union leaders to lead the members in some kind of fight back is important. The involvement of the leaders, and therefore of the official structures, authority and resources of the trade unions, is to be worked for, not their banishment from the streets. Rather than quietly smiling at the hectoring or even egging it on the left needs to tackle it among its members and supporters and provide some tactical and historical education to its followers. Rather than the shallow but ineffective satisfaction of shouting down union leaders in O’Connell Street the left should, as it does only sporadically, challenge union leaders where it matters, in the unions, at union branches, general meetings and conferences, organising majorities, or influential minorities, to overturn the uninterrupted dominance of officialdom.

DD 20-01-13


11th January 2013


Email: busworker.action.group@gmail.com



All Dublin bus drivers must support our colleagues in Bus Eireann in the weeks ahead. Management in Bus Eireann are trying to force in drastic cuts in pay and conditions for workers and drivers, and their plan is an exact copy of the attacks that Dublin Bus management plan for us.

Both companies want to slash payments for overtime and rest days. Both want to cut the number of holidays we have, (already among the lowest for European workers!) Both want to attack our sick scheme and the number of sick days, and both plan to withdraw for the income continuance scheme forcing drivers to pay the total cost of it.

In addition the Dublin Bus wish list goes future demanding cuts in shift pay for some drivers, a drastic attack on travelling time conditions, and most seriously the introduction of part time drivers on much worst pay and conditions that will have little of the rights and conditions we have fought and won over the years.

This reserve labour force would be used to eliminate any overtime earnings and undermine what would be left of our jobs and conditions. Nor would the attacks end here. If successful we can expect more of the same from the company in the next few years. Cuts and increases in pension fees, garage closures and amalgamations, and the constant threat of losing routes to private operators under new NTA rules.

The company will use fear of these route losses to push for more and more attacks. They and the Government are using the recession as a weapon to put fear into workers. Every year, if they get away with this, the Government will cut the subsidy and the company will demand we pick up the tab.


Behind these attacks stand Varadkar and the Government. While they force in austerity on workers to pay for bankers debts, they are also intent of pushing in radical changes to public services and unionised work places. They want to send workers’ pay and conditions back to the Stone Age and think they can get away with it after the weak response from our unions over the last five years.

It’s time we got off our knees!

We have to start to fight this insane agenda, and that starts with ALL CIE workers standing in solidarity with Bus Eireann drivers. Only unity between all CIE workers can force a climb down on these attacks. We need to send our union official’s a clear message that we will not accept the kind of sell outs that they forced on public sector workers and that we won’t pay for the mess that bankers and speculators have made of our society.
The Bus Workers Action group will be campaigning in the weeks ahead against this plan and for solidarity between all workers. We will be holding information meetings for drivers soon and will hold our unions to account for any retreat on these cost cutting plans.

Cuts Are Palatable Says GS

The NBRU General Secretary Mick Faherty stated tonight on the RTE nine o’ clock news he stated that Bus Eireann Management rewrote the document & stating it was more palatable.

Drivers need to send a clear message to both Trade Unions and to the NBRU General Secretary Mick Faherty that rewriting a document to change drivers pay & conditions is not palatable to any driver in any of the CIE Group.

This is the same negotiation committee that have let the company asset strip Dublin Bus vehicles of the roads, dozens of Bus Eireann’s routes scrapped and massive cut backs in rail journeys throughout the CIE Group.

Do not be deterred by the threats of legal action by the company it’s time the group of CIE workers all stood together as one we must as workers hold our unions to account and that means no cuts to our pay and conditions.

All Drivers should vote no to any document that comes back from the labour courts. After all what are both unions in discussion for but to cut our pay & conditions.
Vote No To Cuts

This day last year, 16th January 2012, was a black day for Irish trade unionism. From that day bin collection in Dublin was carried out by a private firm, Greyhound, after Dublin City Council sold the business to them bringing bin collection by the city to an end after almost 150 years. The privatisation of bin collection in Dublin City Council was, among all the recent setbacks and climb downs of the trade union movement, a symbolic defeat in a heartland of Irish blue collar trade unionism. The Dublin bins have gone the way of other emblematic and once seemingly impregnable redoubts of Irish trade union stability, such as the integrity and public status of electricity supply and the sacredness of the JLC/ERO system. Unlike signal defeats further back, those at Pat the Baker, Ryanair and Irish Ferries for instance, the Dublin bins passed with only a whimper.

That the privatisation of Dublin city bin collection happened at all was a depressing development. The manner in which it occurred served only to lower the mood further. As the changeover happened some of the bin workers themselves were certainly dissatisfied with the situation and with the unions:

“Before heading out [for the last time at Davitt Road depot], the men  met for about half an hour to discuss their options. There was talk of “missed opportunities”, of how they should have balloted for industrial action before Christmas, or sat in in the depot last week, keeping the lorries hostage. They derided both council management and their unions – Impact and Siptu. Shortly after 6.30am the seven crews set out. It was minus 1 degree, and still dark….” (Irish Times, 14th January 2012)

Even though this privatisation had been flagged for ages “Dublin city’s 110 former bin-men will not be told until Friday [21st January] what their new jobs will be”. (Irish Times, 16th January 2012) This was two days after their jobs had gone! How could this be let happen in a well organised workplace represented by two of the biggest unions in the county? If the axe had to fall couldn’t the basic terms and conditions of such a change not have been negotiated long in advance of D-day? The Irish Times report continues:

“At a meeting today at the Civic Offices, assistant city manager, Séamus Lyons, told the former binmen their ‘basic pay’ would be protected following their redeployment to other departments. They may be reassigned to work in the parks, water, roads, housing or drainage sections. A number expressed their anger that they still did not know where they would be working from next Monday. Mr Lyons said … they [the workers] would hear later this week the number of vacancies in each section and, based on seniority, who would have first preference for certain positions.

Later they were addressed by officials from Impact and Siptu, who said negotiations on the cleansing allowance and redeployment would continue tomorrow. They would brief the men again on Friday.”

As the bin tax campaign always argued, the fate of the bin workers and of the citizens were always linked. A media storm focused on the effects of the privatisation on the bin charges to Dublin tenants and householders, and on the plummeting quality of bin collection (e.g. Irish Times 24 January & 4th February, 2012).

Not unsurprisingly, this produced a media din louder than anything on the effects of the privatisation on the bin workers, on trade union strength and on the rights and conditions for both Dublin City Council and Greyhound workers. However, despite the claim to the contrary in the above Irish Times report from Davitt Road depot, Greyhound was not a non-union firm, whatever about the strength and fate of that unionisation. The debacle did not reach so low as to pass Dublin bin collection from a union stronghold to a union wasteland. As others – The City Bin Co. (with an opening offer of €99, all-in, for 3 bins for 12 months) – now move in to grab, like scavengers at a city dump, some of the market from Greyhound, it remains to be seen how trade union organisation in Dublin bin collection survives this race to the bottom.

The maintenance of the municipalisation of waste disposal in Dublin city was the last stand in a restructuring process that was decisively boosted by the defeat of the bin tax campaign. A defeat that, ironically, was sealed by the refusal of trade union officialdom to support the collection of all Dublin bins (paid or unpaid) at the beginning of the campaign*. A seal that was imprinted in wax by the highest official of the trade union movement in his denunciation of the jailed campaign leaders, a repudiation eagerly afforded front page headline promulgation by the Irish Times.

It was not, as Minister Pat Rabitte has claimed, because of the anti-bin tax campaign that the state was “successful in privatising the bin service right across the city.” It was because the valiant efforts of the thousands of people in the bin tax campaign were not successful that the state was “successful in privatising the bin service right across the city.” The imposition of charges on, the commodification of, bin collection was a prerequisite of the privatisation for profit of bin collection. As Joes Higgins and the campaign said, now and constantly at the time: “Imposing charges is a set-up and a preparation of the ground for privatisation.”

The process unfolded exactly as the campaign explained it would, including the escalation of the original bin charge to what it is now (with waivers also questioned). Just as the Campaign Against the Household and Water Taxes argued that the initial charges were bound for multiple rises.

Yet this last act in the process was an act in another process too: the collapse of the unions in the face of the offensive to make workers pay for the economic crisis and the implosion of the bubble. The end of Dublin City Council bin collection may or may not be directly connected with the Croke Park deal, but it is of a piece with it insofar as hitherto unimaginable changes and cuts are passively accepted in and by the trade union movement. Changes and cuts which serve only the purpose of bailing out the banks and the ’1%’ who cling to them, transferring wealth from working people to the fabulously rich, dismantling the gains won over decades of struggle and weakening the trade unions especially on the ground.

Without being close to the process of privatisation and of the ‘waste disposal’ of decades of trade union organisation and of 100 trade union members displaced by the privatisation,  it is not possible to ascertain exactly what happened and who in our own organisations bears a responsibility for this sorry episode. Was this another ‘reform’ eased through by union representatives? Was it the end result of workers left with little fight, or obvious alternative, by years of disillusion, demoralisation and defeat? But what is needed, to salvage even something abstract out of this, is not so much to point the finger of blame as to learn a lesson. Not a lesson from deep analysis of the entrails of this setback of minor historical proportions, but a simple and obvious lesson for all levels of our movement and especially those with some capacity left to act on it.

Nothing is sacred. If the Dublin bin workers can be replaced by Greyhound, and replaced so easily, there is nothing that cannot be taken away. Walk down Davitt Road and Collins Avenue and see the state, test the strength, of the trade union movement. We don’t need to reinforce our battalions; we need to build all over again from the bottom up. It is nearer 1913 than we ever thought.

Simultaneous with the pitiful departure of the regiments from the Dublin depots came an uplifting and sudden struggle from another old guard section, the Vita Cortex workers in the second city, Cork. But we were not going to be handed a rejuvenated army on a plate. The Vita Cortex sit-in was heroic and heartening, and stood as the herald of a possible fight back. But it was also the desperate struggle for previously secure rights which came to its own natural if uplifting end, leaving little organisation behind, even when the struggle was won and these seasoned members scattered and left the field. We have to wake up and renew our unions by beginning to make a stand in the places where we have forces we can build up, by making a stand in the workplace now, in the union sections now, on the streets now, and not when we face a do-or-die fight to get the best we can before going down the road. Dublin City Council bin collection should have been one of those places where we made a stand.


* In Cabra a very solid local campaign had excellent connections with the bin workers. So solid in fact that in areas of Cabra large numbers were still not paying six years later (2009) and their bins were still being collected.

DD 16-01-13


Six Points in Croke Park

As talks for a new Deal begin here are a half-dozen things you probably know about the Croke Park Deal that should stop the unions extending it.

1. The Croke Park Deal seems to set up a conflict between pay and job security, on the one hand, and services to the public and the needy on the other. (Of course the real conflict is between pay, job security and services on the one hand and the billions given to the banks on the other. Nevertheless this does not stop the media head fixers from using the structure of the Croke Park Deal to pitch services against pay, job security and conditions. The alternative is for the unions to fight against cuts in services and jobs, wages and conditions.)

2. The Croke Park Deal seems to accept cuts in services in return for a jobs and pay guarantee. (This impression is reinforced by the lack of union resistance to the cuts and, indeed by point 3 below).

3. The Croke Park Deal facilitates the cuts in services through co-operation with restructuring and transferring to cover for the reduced staffing.

4. The Croke Park Deal agrees to massive reductions in (decent and unionised) jobs at the very time when every job is needed and in contradiction to the trade union policy of state-led investment in growth and jobs. (“Public Service Numbers are now [September 2012] 28,000 lower (at 292,000 approx) than their peak (of 320,000 approx) at end 2008”(Progress on the implementation of the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan, 6th September 2012]).

5. The Croke Park Deal has not prevented or restored cuts in remuneration to public service workers and has led to worsened conditions through extra work, stress and pressure.  (This while the “Exchequer pay bill has been reduced by 17.7% between 2009 and 2012, from €17.5bn (Gross) to €14.4bn (net of the Pension Related Deduction)” and “over the period 2009 to 2015, the Exchequer pay bill is expected to reduce by €3.8bn, or €3.3bn net of expected increases in public service pensions costs” [Progress on the implementation of the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan, 6th September 2012]. And now the Government wants to make further savings of €1 billion on its pay and pensions bill over the next three years.)

6. The Croke Park Deal seems to allow cuts in basic pay for new entrants in return for guarantees for serving workers. (This impression is reinforced by the passive acceptance in many cases of new lower starting rates. Again it allows the media head fixers to pitch new, young workers against already serving workers, blaming existing workers for the rip-off of new entrants. The alternative is the traditional trade union insistence on protecting the basic rate for all.)

DD 14-01-13



14th January 2013

Members are urged to participate in a national “Day of Action against Austerity”
on Saturday, 9th February 2013, which is being organised by the Irish Congress
of Trade Unions.It is now five years since we were promised “long term gain for
short term pain”. Since then the one sided austerity strategy has inflicted a
great deal of misery but resulted in little progress.

This failed policy should have been abandoned long ago. We must adopt a “New
Course”. Reducing unemployment rather than jobs, pay and welfare, is the way
forward.A deal to restructure the crippling burden of banking debt is absolutely
critical to progress. Otherwise, we will have to seek another “Bailout”. This
must be avoided at all costs. It would condemn us to another long period of one
sided austerity with the EU/ECB/IMF troika dictating the dismantlement of the
remainder of our social infrastructure to pay off banking debts that should never
have been incurred. We must seize the opportunity presented by Ireland’s presidency
of the EU over the next six months to demonstrate to those at the top of the
European institutions that there is massive public support here for the demand
for a restructuring deal on this crippling banking debt. It is not sufficient to
leave it to the Government.

In parallel with this, we must also demand a major domestic stimulus initiative by
the Government to promote jobs and growth. For example, the €2.25bn infrastructure
programme announced in July 2012 should be trebled to at least €7bn over three years
(it is estimated that each €1bn would create 10,000 jobs). With our improved credit
rating this can be funded through a combination of the National Pension Reserve
Fund, incentivising investment from private pension funds, recycling the profits of
the state companies and loans from the European Investment Bank.

Simultaneously, we must also insist on a proper contribution from the better off.
A start could be made by implementing this year the abolition of tax relief on
pension contributions for high earners, which was announced in the budget, instead
of in 2014. Making it effective from 1st July 2013the Government would generate
€125m which could be used to alleviate the impact of cuts on lower to middle income

There is a better, fairer way to restore our economy and protect our communities.

Please participate in the “Day of Action” on Saturday, 9th February.
Marches will take place in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Sligo and
Waterford. Further details to follow.