Three take aways from Debenhams Parnell Street, morning of 23rd April 2021.

The action of the Garda, the inaction of the trade union movement and the silence of the mainstream media.

The force, resources and pre-planning of the Garda operation. The unequivocal partisanship of the state and the Garda on the side of capital (company and liquidator), complete with support for breach of covid restrictions (inessential work) compared to the early Garda moves against Debenhams workers in the name of the same restrictions.

The lack of interest and response from the trade unions to a major strikebreaking operation and the actual inability of the trade union movement (even if it was willing) to mount anything like the action that such a development (and the arrests last September) would have prompted in past years.

The certain suppression of a major news story by the complete silence on it from RTÉ news coverage and it’s complete absence from the print edition of the ‘Irish Times’. (RTÉ and the ‘Times’ had reports online, RTÉ’s a mere token).

Some reflection and reorganization is badly needed in the labour movement.

From: David Gibney <>
Date: 12/06/2013 12:25PM
Subject: M&S Strike Update

Dear Deputy/Senator,

As you may already be aware, more than 2,300 of our members in Marks & Spencer will be participating in industrial action throughout Ireland tomorrow, Saturday, 7th December 2013.

I am writing to you on behalf of our members in order to give you some context to the dispute.

In late September, Marks & Spencer began negotiations with Mandate and SIPTU in relation to a number of proposed cost saving initiatives. This followed the closure of four of their stores with the loss of 180 jobs in Tallaght, Naas, Dun Laoghaire and Newbridge. The proposal for cost savings included:

         A reduction in the Sunday and Public Holiday premium;

         The elimination of the Christmas bonus;

         A reduction in the number of Section Managers.

During the discussions, Mandate sought clarification that the above proposals formed the entirety of the savings plan. The company emphatically assured the workers and their unions that this was the case.

Within a number of weeks the company dropped the bombshell that they were closing the workers defined benefit pension scheme. The company insists that the workers retirement income is a discretionary benefit. Obviously, we differ on that position.

Management have not given sufficient evidence that these cost saving proposals are justified and in that context it is difficult for the workers to accept the unilateral imposition of cost saving measures like the closing of the Defined Benefit pension scheme which unlike many is performing and has a current surplus of 17m.

Notwithstanding the pre-emptive attack on our members terms and conditions the union attended two conciliation conferences at the Labour Relations Commission in order to find a resolution. However, despite being requested to defer some of the implementation dates for the removal of our members much valued entitlements to facilitate meaningful engagement, management refused to agree.

The company are now seeking negotiations after the event whereby theyve already implemented the change. This obviously prohibits the union and the company from engaging in a constructive fashion and this reality clearly makes it more difficult to find a resolution to the current dispute.

There is an opportunity to resolve this dispute but the company have to accept that their actions in the first place were wrong and they must not only show a willingness to come back to the negotiating table but also a genuine determination to agree a settlement which is acceptable to their workers.

Our members do not want to take industrial action and are genuinely hurt and disappointed with the way their employer has treated them. Were urging the company to act in a manner which is befitting of the perception that the public has of Marks and Spencer as a reputable employer and give their workers the respect and a resolution to this dispute that they undoubtedly deserve.

On behalf of our members I would like to thank you for your continued support and if you have any questions in relation to this dispute, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Gerry Light

Mandate Assistant General Secretary

Mobile: 087 264 0044

David Gibney

Communications Officer

Mandate Trade Union

9 Cavendish Row

Dublin 1

PH: 01 871 7003

Mob: 087 132 4140




People Before Profit TD, challenges Minister Burton on outrageous abuse of JobBridge Scheme by private waste company with state contracts

Posted: 24 Apr 2013 07:39 AM PDT

During Minister’s Questions today, People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, challenged Minister for Social Protection, that the JobBridge Scheme is being abused by private companies.

In February, Oxygen, who run the recycling plant in Ballyogan on behalf of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council took on a number of staff via the JobBridge scheme. These staff were trained by workers who then lost their jobs.

JobBridge is the government’s National Internship Scheme that is intended to provide work experience for those on Social Welfare payments as a way to get people back to work.

The intern receives €50 from the state on top of their SW payment and the “host company” is obliged to train and upskill the intern but is not liable to pay any money to the intern.

The rules for Job Bridge state clearly that:

  •  The host organisation currently may not have vacancies in the area of activity in which the internship is offered.
  • The internship will not be provided to displace an employee. The scheme administrator reserves the right to review cases where it is reported that this is the case.

On 31 March 4 workers lost their jobs at Ballyogan Depot. These workers were employed by AS Finnegan, a sub-contractor for Oxygen.

These workers had spent the previous weeks training a number of Job Bridge “interns”. Three of these interns are now doing the jobs of these previously employed workers.

Richard Boyd Barrett TD, said: “It is an absolute scandal if it is the case that JobBridge scheme is being used by employers to displace other workers. When this scheme was announced, we raised the possibility that it was open to this kind of abuse and this story begs the question about how widespread this is.”

“What makes this story even worse is that Ballyogan Depot is owned by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. Oxygen have the contract to run this. It is utterly unacceptable that state contracts are being given to companies that are abusing a Social Protection scheme.

There is widespread anecdotal evidence that this abuse of JobBridge scheme is not an isolated incident. These companies should certainly be debarred from public contracts and it is possible that even criminal proceedings should be taken. There are also very serious questions to be asked of the government about their failure to prevent this kind of abuse and put in place proper monitoring of the scheme and severe penalties where abuses are taking place.”

Richard Lynch added: “I had been working in the office in Ballyogan since Christmas and now one of these JobBridge interns is doing my job. This costs the state an extra €50 per week!

I reported it to the department of Social Protection on 21st of March. Apparently they are still looking into it! How long does it take to see that the scheme is just being abused!

Brian Halpin said: “I was working in Ballyogan for 1 year and 11 months and I was only told on Wed 27 March that I would no longer be needed on Monday 1 April. Now there is an intern doing my job. This intern is being paid from Dept of Social Protection and I had to sign on too costing the state an extra €238 every week while Oxygen are laughing all the way to the bank.”

Article source:

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

Reposted on 9th July 2012

Rank and file SIPTU members in Dublin Airport take unprecedented step of writing to Jack O’Connor demanding right to ballot

Originally Posted: 06 Jul 2012

Press statement: Clare Daly TD (Socialist Party)

“Bar workers employed by the multinational catering giant SSP in Dublin Airport are rightly determined to fight to save the jobs they have being doing for decades in many cases.

“SSP, after winning a tendering process last February overseen by the DAA paid lip service to Transfer of Undertaking laws and proceeded to try force wage costs down in the most crude of manners which I have detailed in previous statements.

“At this point in time some six bar staff have been selected, unfairly in my view, for redundancy and are pursuing an internal appeals mechanism within SSP overseen from the UK. Those that have not been selected for redundancy are being put on a four week ‘trial’ and are being told that if they are not sacked at the end of that period they may continue their job at €9.40 per hour, a pay cut in the order of 37%.

“Rather than responding to the mood for a ballot for industrial action the SIPTU official locally has mistakenly bought into the redundancies as a done deal and has engaged in a process of negotiating redundancy terms. This fatalistic approach by SIPTU of not fighting to save jobs has got to stop. The workers have taken the unprecedented step of addressing themselves in an open letter to Jack O’Connor, General President of SIPTU insisting that a ballot be conducted as a last throw of the dice to save their jobs.

“I salute their couragious stand. I think it will resonate with working people and the unemployed up and down the country were it not for the media disinterest to date. A successful ballot and action might change that.”

Article source: