23 February 2006 Edition
Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2006 WORKERS' RIGHTS
BY Justin Moran
Joanne Delaney centre of attention
Joanne Delaney, interviewed in last week's An Phoblacht, and a guest at the Ard Fheis stole the show during the session dealing with workers' rights.
The session was opened by Bairbre de Brún MEP who highlighted the importance of many of the battles taking place at EU level that will have substantial implications for Irish workers.
She attacked the Labour Party's decision to accept a compromise with the right on the controversial Services Directive.
"The position of many other Irish MEPs leaves much to be desired," De Brún told delegates. "I was disappointed that Proinsias De Rossa MEP supported the directive, which he claims is a victory for workers - it is nothing of the sort
"The key parts of the motion supported by the Labour Party were deceptive - the Country of Origin Principle (allowing companies to employ people under the pay and conditions of countries where salaries are lower and employment conditions are weaker) has been renamed, but remains at the heart of the directive.
"The Services Directive opens the way for an all-out attack on public services, and creates the potential for Irish Ferries' style developments across the services sector."
De Brún closed by reminding delegates that the Services Directive was not settled as an issue and urging members to get involved in the campaign of opposition. "The fightback has begun all across Europe. Let's all play our part in that," she said.
The presence of sacked Mandate Shop Steward Joanne Delaney in the audience was announced by Dublin City Councillor Larry O'Toole, who took the opportunity of his remarks on the Irish Ferries dispute to draw the parallels with supporting Delaney, who was fired for wearing her union badge.
"In reality fired because she was successfully organising for her union in the Crumlin store and standing up for her co-workers," O'Toole said, introducing Joanne Delaney to the Ard Fheis to sustained applause.
"Whether it's Irish Ferries or a courageous young woman like Joanne Delaney in Dunnes Stores, when workers stand up, Sinn Féin must stand with them."
O'Toole was followed by fellow Dublin City Councillor Daithí Doolan, speaking to an Emergency Motion on Joanne Delaney's case. He called for a National Day of Action with protests and pickets to highlight her cause.
South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane starkly outlined the continuing sectarian discrimination in the Six Counties, particularly in the civil service, where less than one in four employees of the NIO is Catholic.
"Out of over 1,800 staff," she pointed out, "one is based in my own constituency of South Down, one in Fermanagh/South Tyrone and three in West Belfast yet over 1,400 in East, North and South Belfast.
"An analysis of Invest NI patterns of investment shows that the six most income and employment deprived council areas together - Strabane, Derry, Omagh, Moyle, Cookstown and Newry and Mourne - get less financial assistance and will receive less planned investment than wealthy South Belfast."
Discrimination of another type was highlighted by Dublin City Councillor Dessie Ellis who raised the issue of the treatment of migrant workers, who he said were being used as scapegoats in the economy.
"When workers are set against workers, whatever their nationality, the only people who win are the bosses," Ellis pointed out.
"Blame the Nigerians, don't blame Bertie was their message. Blame the Poles, don't blame Mary Harney. Blame the Romanians, don't blame Michael McDowell.
"James Connolly called it 'ruling by fooling'. I call it cowardice, hypocrisy and racism and we must stand up to it."
He concluded to loud cheers from delegates that: "We need to send a message to the employers and this government. We say, when you exploit any of us, you exploit all of us. And when you push any of us, we will all push back."
For more see http://www.ardfheis.com/news/754