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Strikers face emergency powers, scab
29 October 2016
The announcement on October 26th that the Irish secondary teacher's union, ASTI, was to proceed with industrial action in relation to pay was followed immediately by a declaration of war by the government.
Minister for education Richard Bruton issued an ultimatum. Either the teachers agreed to carry out "core" duties - that is non-teaching duties prescribed by the government - by November 7th, or they would be removed from the payroll. This is the latest in a whole series of punishments using emergency legislation, applied to ASTI members in an attempt to force them to abide by an agreement, the Lansdowne Road agreement, that they did not sign up to, and where the issue in contention - equal pay for equal work - is one of the most fundamental principles of trade unionism.
Yet the much lauded Irish economic recovery is based on driving wages down and keeping them down. New recruits to the public sector are paid at a lower rate. A recent strike by LUAS light rail transport drivers won a pay increase but was unable to reverse a lower pay scale for new drivers. Striking Dublin bus drivers were awarded a low payment based on a significant increase in productivity and decrease in workplace rights that yet again involved the workers in paying for the increase and did nothing to reverse years of pay freeze.
The government is able to go on the offensive
because they have the support of the Trade union leadership. Brendan Barbour,
spokesperson for public sector union IMPACT, echoing the Irish Congress
of Trade Unions, accused teachers and gardai of “betraying” other public
sector workers and called on the government to crush the strike.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny says that the restoration
of public sector pay is unaffordable. Brendan Barbour says that:
As Leon Trotsky once remarked, when reformism reaches its endpoint and reform is not within reach all that is left is support for capitalism and reaction.
The ability of workers to respond to the threats facing them is obstructed by the socialist groups longstanding policy of peaceful coexistence with the union bureaucracy. There is some criticism of Brendan Barbour, but no recognition that he is expressing the scab policy of the union leadership. There are calls for workers to support the teachers, but no call for a battle against the union leaderships and the Lansdowne Road agreement.
The current struggle is a real crisis for
the socialist groups. They supported the "left" unions that directed the
Right2Water campaign and then diverted it into the dead end of the populist
"Right2Change" electoral front with the complicity of the left. Clinging
to the coat tails of the left bureaucracy no longer seems a comfortable
There is much to play for. In the background is a parallel dispute around the Lansdowne Road agreement involving the Garda, which holds clear dangers for the government. The majority of ASTI members have taken industrial action, at financial cost to themselves, in support of new entrants denied equal pay. TUI members have refused to cross picket lines despite a silence from their own leadership. There is widespread support among trade unionists and the general public. Skill shortages will exert an upward pressure on wages and the raging housing crisis, fed by vulture capitalism and a government of landlords and property speculators subordinate to imperialism, makes life on current wage rates extremely difficult.
The task now is to spread support for the teachers as widely as possible, to build defence committees that seek support across union structures and with teachers and pupils and which rejects Lansdowne Road and whole capitalist philosophy of the workers continuing to sacrifice themselves as the imperialists and local parasite capitalists continue to fatten off their blood.
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