Return to Statements menu
Irish Ferries: Say No to starvation wages! Organise Rank and File Solidarity!

Statement distributed by Socialist Democracy at rally in support of Irish Ferries workers in Dublin, 9 December 2005.

If one common message is being presented from Government, employers and union leaderships it is that the Irish Ferries dispute is an exceptional case, well outside the safe reliable boundaries of social partnership and with no effect on the lives of the average worker.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone with their ear to the ground can tell you that that job displacement is the order of the day in all sectors of the economy, that its just part of a wave of privatisation and deregulation that hits the whole of the Irish workforce. The earlier exploitation of a Filipino worker by Irish Ferries and the GAMA dispute are just the tip of the Iceberg. The government cry salt tears, but funnel public funds through front companies to subsidise GAMA. The union leaderships shout outrage, but sign up migrant workers and agree lower wages and conditions for them – the reality of social partnership.

The fact is that once €3.50 is installed in Irish Ferries it becomes the low-water mark that the bosses will aim at for all workers. 

It there a way to prevent this? Yes there is! It’s there in the struggle of the workers. Occupy the Ferries. Close down the company. Extend the action to shore staff. In fact we should be aiming to close down the entire economy until the bosses cry Uncle and surrender. We should be looking to increase the existing solidarity expressed in Wales and spread it across Europe. We should insure that all migrant workers have the same wages and conditions as their Irish counterparts.

Alternatively there is a road to defeat. It’s the road being followed by the union bosses. Keep the action local. Appeal to the finer feelings of the bosses. Appeal to Fianna Fail and Bertie the socialist to change the law. Sign up to European agreements that facilitate the Irish Ferries action. Hold solidarity demonstrations weeks apart and hold them in the middle of the day without organising a mass stoppage. Cook up a deal to fudge the dispute on the bosses’ terms behind everyone’s backs and sign up as soon as the mass demonstration is over.

The battle can be won. It won’t be won by the union leadership, searching desperately for a way of signing up to another round of social partnership. It can be won by the workers if they set up solidarity organisations in their own union branches and workplaces and establish a network that can take the union bureaucracy by the throat and prevent yet another sellout. The members of Socialist Democracy stand ready to join with anyone organising at local level to join together in a national network willing to fight both the enemy without and the enemy within the trade union movement.


Return to top of page