Seventy Irish trade unionists launched the Trade Union Activists Network in Dublin on 1 October. Formed to counter decades of 'social partnership' in Ireland, which held down wages in order to boost the bosses' profits, the idea of a Network gained further credence when the right-wing trade union leaders signed the 'Croke Park agreement' in February. This allowed the bosses and the government in Ireland to try and buy social peace, following the anger and protests around the banking and property collapse and deep recession in Ireland of recent years.
The conference heard speakers from a number of unions, with plenty of discussion from the floor, on the best way forward to build an opposition in the Irish trade unions.
With a tough budget likely in December and attacks on pensions which one teachers' union has called 'larcenous', it is possible that 2012 will be a year in which large sections of workers will have no choice but to fight back, with or without their leaders.
The conference was also addressed by a speaker from the National Shop Stewards Network in Britain who explained how that organisation has built and suggested ideas for strengthening a fightback in Ireland.
Interested trade unionists in Ireland can contact Terry Kelleher on (00353) 872 857665 for further information about the Network.