Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 25 May 2011

Ireland: 'Reclaim the unions'

Successful activists forum held

Michael O'Brien, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland)

On 7 May, 70 activists from a range of trade unions met at a forum in Dublin organised under the title Reclaim the Unions.

The purpose of the meeting was two-fold. Firstly, it was an opportunity for trade union activists to discuss the state of Ireland's trade union movement in the wake of three years of attacks on jobs, pay and conditions from governments and employers. During this time the leadership of the trade union movement has failed to offer a fighting lead to the membership. From there we could then discuss the measures necessary to prepare for the attacks that lie ahead.

In the discussion, chaired by Eddie Conlon of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) executive, there was a common understanding that a combination of factors has weakened the trade union movement. Institutionalised 'Social Partnership' [collaboration of the trade union leaders with the government in holding back workers' demands and struggle], from 1987 until 2008, largely robbed a generation of trade unionists of the opportunity of being trained up as militant activists through taking on their employer, locally, to advance and defend pay and conditions.

Likewise, the lack of a real radical alternative to the cuts agenda from the trade union leaders, even among those who opposed social partnership and the rotten Croke Park deal [agreed in March 2010], means that they implicitly accept the attacks and offer no strategy of sustained resistance to the membership.


The discussion moved on to what steps were needed to rebuild the combativeness of the trade union movement. A genuine debate emerged as to whether it was a better strategy to develop activist groups within the existing unions to fight the bureaucracies along the lines of the CPSU Activist Group and the newly created ASTI Fightback, whose successful launch was explained by Andrew Phelan.

An alternative view was argued by some construction worker activists and Dave Cotter from the Independent Workers' Union (IWU). He said that the efforts of genuine union activists would be better spent taking people out of the existing unions and either switching to better unions or building new militant organisations from scratch like the IWU.

The prevailing view in the discussion articulated by Socialist Party member Stephen Boyd (Unite) and others, was that while there were some exceptional cases in which the movement of members from one union to another was warranted, in general it was better to stay and fight.

This is in order to avoid the danger of separating the best fighting elements in the unions from the broad membership, who are then left in the thrall of the right wing leadership.

Terry Kelleher from the CPSU Activist Group and Owen McCormack, now in Siptu's Dublin Bus branch, led-off the second session by making proposals for where to take this initiative. It was proposed and agreed that a national network of trade union activists would be built and formally launched at a conference in September. A committee to organise the conference was elected. It was also agreed to organise a protest at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference in Kerry in July.

An extensive network of activists spread across all sectors and key workplaces can be a structure through which solidarity can be built for strikes and campaigns that emerge. Importantly, a trade union activists network can be a means of quickly disseminating into the workplaces the key lines of political argument that answer the cutback consensus of the bosses and politicians, as well as the defeatist arguments of the trade union leaders.

With further attacks in sight on REA and ERO [industry pay] rates mainly affecting private sector workers; 25,000 job cuts and attacks arising from the Croke Park deal in the public sector, and privatisation of assets in the commercial semi-state sector, it is clear that the organised working class has major battles on its hands in the months and years ahead.

This first step in building a network of trade union activists can ultimately make a big difference in ensuring that the thousands of workers who want to fight can link up with the best fighters in the union movement and defeat the government and employers' austerity measures.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 25 May 2011:

What we think

Weak and unpopular coalition can be defeated

Anti-cuts campaigning

National shop stewards conference - Unite to stop the cuts

As the cost of living soars...: 'We are going to fight back'!

An offer we must refuse

Why Liverpool needs a needs budget

Showing an alternative to cuts in Dorset

Defending the NHS

Battling to defend the NHS

NHS demo in London needs to be a step towards united national strike action

Unison leaders failing to adopt the demands of health workers

Challenging Tories' plans to kill our health service

Socialist Party workplace news

PCS conference: developing strategies for struggle

UCU facing battles on all fronts

Southampton city council workers strike

Three day strike to stop redundancies at Sheffield College

Firefighters discuss strategy to fight cuts

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

"We are London Met Uni, not EasyMet"

Atos Origin - profiting from pain

'Slutwalk' protests: Women reject sexism

Slave labour schemes must be resisted

Reviews and comments

Leadership failed print workers in vital battle

Review: The street that cut everything

Socialist Party news and analysis

McNulty's railway report: not 'value for money'!

Care homes privatisation hits the elderly

News in brief

International socialist news and analysis

Eyewitness report: Mass youth protests in Spain

Ireland: 'Reclaim the unions'

Greece: Resist bosses' agenda and the far right


Home   |   The Socialist 25 May 2011   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleBoeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangleLeeds Socialist Students marks 'International Safe Abortion Day'

triangleEyewitness: Irish socialist MP participates in events

triangleChesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangleBuilding workers' struggle and the forces of international socialism

Trade union:

triangleRoyal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangleConference on state spies: who's watching who?

trianglePowerful picture of the Port Talbot steel workers' struggle

triangleTories scrap the NHS pay cap: now fight for real-terms pay rises!




Hong Kong

Campaign against political repression in Hong Kong



Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't



Solidarity with Catalonia - the people have the right to decide



Eyewitness: Irish socialist MP participates in events



Exemplary resistance by the people of Catalonia



Germany: Election results in political earthquake



Strike against Madrid's 'state of emergency'!



German elections: rise of the far right and right-wing government will provoke resistance



French Labour reform protests



Catalonia: Student strike called



Brutal repression of Rohingya people sparks massive humanitarian crisis



Solidarity with Catalonia in the Spanish state



Berlin hospital strike



Korean peninsula: is nuclear war likely?



Interview with leader of students' union in the Spanish state: "When we fight, we win!"

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

More ...

triangle21 Oct Birmingham: NSSN Solidarity Forum

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice