Friday 18 January 2019

Will Greyhound Lockout end the same way as 1913?

Workers march on Dublin City Hall to protest against Greyhound Household
Workers march on Dublin City Hall to protest against Greyhound Household

Sarah Carey

Just last year we were commemorating the 1913 Lockout and nostalgia reigned.

I caught the occasional whiff of romanticism for trade unionism and solidarity. But the centenary ended and that was that.

Back to business as usual and the meek acceptance that recessions are a time when in the name of survival companies slash and burn pay and conditions.

The economy will turn around but the crappy conditions will survive.

That's why the Greyhound Lockout has intrigued me.

Back in June the refuse collectors showed up for work to be met by security men. They were told they wouldn't be let in to the depot unless they accepted a one-third pay cut.

Fair dues to them, the workers, who are members of SIPTU, refused. Meanwhile, a new crew of drivers and labourers were being suited up.

What used to be called "scab labour", but Greyhound Household Ltd are designating "agency workers" replaced the regular workforce. It means no one need notice the row because their rubbish is still being collected. Hmmm.

Greyhound Household hold all the cards and so the strategy of the workers is heavily dependent on support from others. It asks each of us to address how far we're willing to go to protect each other.

I should say that I don't exactly have a fondness for trade unions. My beef is that trade unions turned into right wing vested interest groups.

With benchmarking they introduced massive inequality into the public service, with managers being paid 10 times that of clerical workers.

So they went from one extreme to another; inflexible obstructionism to active collusion with the enemy.

However, I've never crossed a picket line. I was once asked by a company to do a job temporarily as the regular person was "sick". Something made me suspicious and a quick check revealed the employee was not sick but was refusing to work as their contract was being arbitrarily changed.

I needed the work - but not that badly - and said no.

These days, there are plenty of people who really do need the money and I hate to judge, but those "agency workers" are undermining the power of the employees.

You have to be desperate to do someone else's job on the cheap, but it'd have to be pretty desperate to make it okay.

But since Greyhound Household can stay in business, it means the workers have no power.

Life goes on for everyone - Greyhound Household, their customers, the general citizenry and local and central government.

Now, call me a romantic, but this is where solidarity and good old-fashioned radicalism come into play. The only chance the Greyhound drivers have is escalation. It's time for the syndicated strike.

To give the workers some power back, life has to be made abnormal - preferably chaotic. That means other SIPTU workers need to step up and out.

In particular, county council employees should strike. In order to create the political pressure to sort out this row, local government needs to be affected.

County councils outsourced refuse collection because they couldn't afford to do it any more.

That doesn't mean they can outsource their moral responsibility to make sure it's being done fairly and properly.

Greyhound Household need to fear that their contract will be given to someone else who treats their workers properly. (It should be stated that Greyhound Household say that they are paying above industry average.)

Similarly, Greyhound customers need to use their power. Where possible they should threaten to change provider unless it's sorted out fairly.

The workers on strike aren't cosy administrators in quasi-corporations; bin collectors are the epitome of honest labour. We should stick up for them. The 1913 Lockout ended in failure for the workers. What a shame if 101years later, the Greyhound Lockout ended the same way.

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