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  The following leaflet was distributed by Socialist Democracy at the conference in Cork City to  launch the new Independent Workersí Union (IWU) 

3rd April 2004


The launch of a union that will fight for its members does not come a moment too soon.  The inauguration of the IWU comes at a time when Irish workers are in the middle of a renewed offensive by a government wedded to the aggressive policies of the capitalist market.

In the past few decades we have witnessed an enormous increase in profits while the share of national income going to labour has shrunk.  We have a health service that is a disgrace and a cost of living that is among the highest in Europe; unemployment is increasing and inequality has grown despite being among the highest in the developed world to begin with.All this has been imposed by a political establishment and business class exposed as corrupt liars and hypocrites.


Unfortunately it is not just they who are to blame.  The leadership of Irelandís trade union movement must also take responsibility for this scandalous situation.  Through social partnership deals they have sold out the interests of Irish workers to multinational companies and native exploiters.  The next phase of the current social partnership deal is about to be negotiated and is going to deliver more wage restraint and privatisation.  Trade union bosses have become partners of government and employers by betraying their own members.


But the problem with Irelandís trade union movement is not just its support for deals with the bosses but its control by a bureaucracy which has turned unions into empty shells devoid of rank and file activity and initiative.  It is a problem because until it is overcome workers are not free to fight back and change the movementís direction.  To be a member of a union no longer means to be organised.  In fact it is union leaders who regularly prevent rank and file workers organising to defend themselves.

The scandal of one trade union leader who can get €1.9 million through privatisation of a previously state owned company may lead some to believe it is just a question of the personal greed of individual union leaders.  But he is only one member of a large and deeply entrenched bureaucracy with interests totally separate and opposed to those of the membership.  They donít want their big incomes threatened by leading workers in action against their enemies.  More and more they owe their privileged position not to the workers below them but to the state they look up to.

Only the most complete democracy is an alternative. Only rank and file control and leadership of the union can prevent the tragedy of bureaucratisation happening again.  Not again should we build a union where its leaders live on many times their membersí wages.  If it is good enough for the worker it should be good enough for the leader and if it isnít good enough then we should fight to increase it!


Democracy must have an objective. We want a democratic union not just for its own sake but because it will ensure that the union fights for the real interests of its members.  The IWU has already made it clear that this means standing against social partnership, resisting privatisation, fighting wage restraint and opposing anti-union laws.

The current trade union bureaucrats will condemn the IWU for being splitters even though they belong to organisations that themselves were breakaways.  The IWU must stand for the unity of the Irish working class and this does not mean unity with bureaucrats like Jack OíConnor or David Begg.  The unity we seek will not be with the so-called social partners but with our fellow workers of all unions and none.

The IWU will aim to build a strong industrial arm to defend the working class but we know from history that this will never be enough.  Workers need a strong political arm to advance their interests.  Today we have a new workerís union but tomorrow we need a new workerís party.  At this moment workers have no party to defend them and for decades the Labour Party has been ridiculed for its spinelessness.  Today it has declared its support for social partnership and privatisation.  The IWU can advance the struggle for a new political voice for Irelandís workers.

It is a big agenda and huge tasks, but nothing worth fighting for was ever easy.  The IWU can grow strong by its example of democracy and spirit of solidarity.  All militant and class conscious workers wish it well on its public foundation.




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