Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/319/9714
Greater Dublin City Bin service shut down!
Bin workers come out in solidarity action!
The campaign against the Bin Tax took a massive step forward today [14 October]. All of Greater Dublin's bin service was shut down during the day by pickets of bin depots organised by the four anti-bin tax campaigns in Dublin.
Kevin Simpson, Dublin.
This action was called in response to the jailings of 13 more people, most of them ordinary residents from Finglas and other parts of the City of Dublin. [Protests began with the jailing of Socialist Party representatives Joe Higgins TD (MP) and councillor Clare Daly, who will be released having served one month in jail in the next few days. - ed]
Fingal Anti Bin Tax campaign, Finglas Against the Bin Tax campaign, and the relatives of those jailed issued a call on the 3,000-strong Dublin Trades Council demonstration last Saturday for a day of protest action today.
This involved pickets at depots from 7am in the morning in Fingal, Dublin City, South Dublin County Council and Dun Loghaire/Rathdown council. A protest action outside the GPO in Dublin's city centre was also part of the day of protest.
This was one of the most significant days during this stage of the anti-bin tax campaign for two reasons. It involved city-wide disruption of the bin collection service (where in most of the city non-collection has not started); but most importantly it involved extremely significant solidarity action by bin workers under threat of dismissal, privatisation and disciplinary action.
Here are some of the day's events, compiled from eye witness reports:
Collins Avenue, Dublin City - North
40 bin tax protesters attended this bin depot. The jailings of ten local residents in Finglas in the north of the city had a profound effect on bin workers in this depot.
As soon as the picket started, it was clear that bin workers' anger against the jailings began to rise to the surface. Another factor was that because of the traditions of bin workers in Dublin City there was great disquiet at the idea of crossing a picket line.
The majority of workers were against crossing the picket line. However, one worker - not a bin worker - decided to break the picket line and drove a council truck through the picket line.
As a result, one of the protesters was injured and was taken away to hospital. Amateur video footage of this incident was the number one news item on tonight's TV news.
This caused outrage amongst the bin workers. They decided even if it meant losing a day's pay they would join the protesters - which is exactly what they did.
A senior council official (who has been responsible for collecting details of protesters and prosecuting them) realised the significance of this development and instructed local managers to call workers back into the depot. They were then told that they did not have to lose a day's pay and they could not cross the picket line for health and safety reasons.
All through the day bin workers came out of the depot and discussed with the protesters. In effect bin workers leaned on the protesters for support and vice-versa. Bin workers made it clear that they were in favour of the picket being put on again on Wednesday.
Result: no bins collected in this area of the city.
Rathmines, Dublin City - South
30 bin tax protesters attended this bin depot. Again bin workers refused to cross the picket line. Management and union officials from SIPTU and IMPACT called a meeting of workers and put pressure on them to take bin trucks out of the depot.
They picked on a senior SIPTU shop steward to take the first truck out. This bin worker refused to carry out the instruction. One of the protesters, a Socialist Party member, Diarmuid Naessens, addressed the bin workers meeting. Managers present in the meeting were incandescent at this development.
Workers were warned that if they refused to take bin trucks out in future then they would be suspended and lose pay. During the day bin workers brought out cups of tea for the protesters.
Sandyford, Dun Loghaire/Rathdown council (South Dublin)
30 protesters joined the picket line. Yet again workers refused to cross the picket line. In a disgraceful move, IMPACT union officials distributed a leaflet amongst the workforce implying that the anti-bin tax campaigners would be responsible for privatisation of the bin service.
During the picket, police attempted to get the name and address of a local anti-bin tax campaigner and Socialist Party member. Immediately all the picketers crowded round and demanded that if one name was taken, all names should be. The police left with their tails between their legs.
Shop stewards and other workers spent the morning coming in and out of the depot talking to protesters. They provided chairs for older protesters and allowed everyone to use the toilets in the depot. Management sent workers home at lunchtime because it was clear that no bins would be collected. On their way out most workers asked if the protesters would be back the day after. A smile and a thumbs up was the answer they were looking for and that is what they got.
Result: no bins collected in this area of the city.
Interviews with activists of the DL/R Campaign can currently be heard here (still online from RTE as of 17 October) (RealPlayer)
Ballymount, South Dublin County Council
40 protesters joined the picket line. This bin depot serves the massive working class areas of Tallaght and Clondalkin. Police soon arrived on the scene and threatened to arrest people under the injunction granted to the local council by the High Court. This bars people from impeding bin trucks or bin workers in their duties.
However, Mick Murphy, a leading activist in the local anti-bin tax campaign and a Socialist Party member, told police that since there were no bin trucks attempting to leave the depot they were not breaking the injunction.
Management then instructed workers to start the bin trucks and drive them to the gate. This was clearly seen as an attempt to use the bin workers to open the way for arrests being made under the injunction. Workers refused.
A union official - no doubt under the direction of management - attempted to dampen down the mood of workers, but shop stewards intervened and opposed the line of this official.
Workers were then told that they were temporarily suspended and would lose a day's pay. Many workers spent the rest of the day on the picket line fraternising with the anti-bin tax protesters.
Result: no bins collected in this part of the city.
Other pickets took place in Fingal, Davitt Road (Dublin City - South), Grange Gorman (Dublin City - North).
City centre lunchtime protest, GPO O'Connell Street
At 12.25 there were only a handful. Ten minutes later numbers had swelled to over a hundred and soon there were over 150 protesters lining the pavements in a noisy protest against the bin tax. This was despite the fact that many activists were still out on protests outside bin depots. After half an hour of chanting and speeches the protesters decided to block one of the two lanes of O'Connell Street, one of the busiest in Dublin.
Protesters cheered the car and bus drivers who were held up by the blockade and they hooted their horns in return. One of the passengers in the car at the head of the traffic queue even asked for the blockade to go on for five minutes longer so that she would have time to go to the toilet before the traffic started moving again.
Pressure is beginning to build on the trade union leaders. The leader of SIPTU, Jack O'Connell, was harangued at the Dublin Trades Council demonstration on Saturday when trade union activists chanted: "Strike! Strike! Strike!". Today, O'Connell was quoted as saying that he understood why bin workers' in Collins Avenue took the action they did.
A meeting of the Irish Congress of Trades Union Executive meets tomorrow and will consider a motion from the electricians' union, the TEEU which calls on the government and councils to end the policy of non-collection.
The battle against the bin tax has stepped up a gear and has spread in a decisive way to the city of Dublin, which has the largest concentration of working class communities in Ireland. The government may have lit fires of anger which they can no longer put out with the threat of jailings and repression.
Tonight, all four anti-bin tax campaigns decided to put blockades on as many bin depots as possible tomorrow morning. It is possible that the establishment may decide to let the state off its leash and make widespread arrests under the Public Order Act or a much wider ranging injunction on a city-wide basis. This could backfire on them in a major way.
In The Socialist 18 October 2003:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
War and occupation
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis