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Thomas Cook occupation, Dublin: "A living lesson for workers everywhere"
A FIVE-DAY occupation by workers at the Thomas Cook shop in Grafton Street, Dublin, over redundancies, was brutally ended by Garda (police) in a dawn raid.
Below is an eyewitness account by Socialist Party (Ireland) councillor Matt Waine of last week's events. Matt was arrested along with 28 workers in the early hours of Tuesday morning 4 August and locked up at Bridewell Garda station.
Thomas Cook occupation in Dublin, Ireland - A courageous struggle, photo by Socialist Party Ireland
"At 6.30pm on Monday 3 August, as the rain bucketed down, I peered through the window of the Thomas Cook store on Grafton Street as the workers and their union officials discussed the latest demand from the High Court to vacate the premises they had been occupying since Friday 31 July. All of a sudden, there was a tremendous cheer - they had voted, unanimously, to ignore the High Court order and to continue with their occupation.
From that moment on, this dispute became more than an issue of redundancy for a small group of workers. It turned into a David versus Goliath struggle of young, mainly female working-class people against a giant multinational corporation that crystallised the anger of hundreds of thousands of workers across the country at the inequitable way the economic crisis was impacting on people's lives.
What is more, these workers took this brave decision in the full knowledge of what the consequences could be (fines or a prison term) and against the advice of their solicitor and their union (TSSA) general secretary. They showed more determination during the five-day occupation than the trade union leaders have shown in the last 22 years of 'social partnership'.
These workers were left with no option but to stand and fight for their livelihoods. When they rejected the offer of five weeks redundancy pay per year of service and instead argued for eight weeks, the company contemptuously announced that the offer was now reduced to two weeks and brought forward the planned closure of the store by one month!
This company are projected to make over €400 million this year. The CEO of the company, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, recently received a 34% pay rise and a €7 million bonus. This was his reward for boosting profits by making over 2,000 low paid Thomas Cook workers in Britain redundant.
The occupation came to an end in a 5am raid by over 100 Garda swooping first on 20 supporters who were camped outside the store and then using a battering ram to enter the shop and arrest everyone inside including myself.
These heavy-handed tactics were an attempt by the state to make an example of the Thomas Cook workers - a warning to others not to try the same thing.
But not everyone receives this treatment at the hands of the state. While 28 Thomas Cook workers and their supporters sat in jail cells in the Bridewell, property magnate Liam Carroll, whose greed and speculation contributed in no small way to the economic crisis, was afforded the protection of the courts against attempts to seize part of his wealth.
The occupation was a lesson in working class discipline and organisation and will remain a living lesson for workers everywhere."
In The Socialist 11 August 2009:
International socialist news
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party youth and students
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Labour history comment