27 August 2009 Edition
Port premises occupied as 700 march for Dublin dockers
BY BRENDAN KERR
THE control room of Dublin Docks cargo handling company Marine Terminals Ltd was seized by striking dockers’ supporters on Monday when several hundred marchers converged on the site from three separate points along the River Liffey.
As the Dublin depot was being occupied, members of the FNV union occupied the head offices of Peel Ports’ BG Freight subsidiary at Bondgenoten, in the Netherlands, for three hours.
Prominent among the marchers were support groups from the local communities of East Wall on the northside of the Liffey and Ringsend on the southside. Two dozen members of Dublin Sinn Féin turned out to bolster the march and take part in the occupation.
More than 60 workers have been on strike for eight weeks after new management at the British-owned subsidiary of Peel Ports Ltd, implemented forced redundancies, with no fair or transparent process, and introduced new ‘take it or leave it’ contracts, reducing wages and severely worsening working conditions.
To enforce its hardline approach, the company has hired worldwide security company Control Risks, staffed by British Army special forces veterans. Scabs from Belfast and Britain were also brought in to take the Dublin dockers’ work.
Monday’s temporary occupation took place after a march organised by SIPTU supported by a wide range of Irish and international trade unions – from the USA, Australia and mainland Europe – heard a range of speakers pledging international support for the Dublin dockers’ struggle.
A Belfast dockers’ representative called on scabs from the Six Counties to withdraw and Peter Bunting, Assistant General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, who led a large Belfast contingent in solidarity, said trade union members would “name and shame” the scabs in their own communities in the North.
The head of the Dockers’ Section of the International Transport Federation, Frank Leys, pledged further solidarity action with Dublin if Marine Terminals continued its efforts to break the strike by Irish workers.
SIPTU General Secretary Joe O’Flynn told the rally:
“Since Peel Ports acquired Marine Terminals last year, it has become a byword for bullyboy tactics against decent employees, many of whom have worked in this company for years. Its slogan seems to be ‘You do it my way or no way at all.’
The SIPTU leader said that, so far, Peel Ports had shown a total contempt for the conflict resolution institutions of the Irish state, “bringing their private security goons into the Labour Relations Commission” and by trying to sack the entire workforce or re-employ them under new terms and conditions in breach of the Protection of Employment (Collective Redundancies) Act of 2007.
Joe O’Flynn added:
“It is exactly one hundred years ago that Jim Larkin founded a new, distinctively Irish union in this country called the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. Its core group was dockers and it was set up to ensure they, and other workers, had decent pay and conditions and security of employment. Today, Peel Ports are trying to set the clock back a hundred years to secure super profits for themselves and consign dockers and their communities to penury.
“We are not going to let it happen and we are going to do whatever it takes to ensure it does not happen. We are prepared to do business with any employer who is prepared to treat employers decently – even Peel Ports – but we also know how to deal with them if they don’t.”
The International Transport Federation inspector for Ireland, Ken Fleming, said that solidarity must spread within Ireland as well as outside. Consumers must be asked to play their part by boycotting supermarkets and other retail outlets supplied through Marine Terminals.
SIPTU says that overall traffic through the depot has fallen by a third since the pickets were mounted on 3 July.
LOSING CONTROL ROOMLOSING CONTROL ROOM
When the official trade union rally ended, community and Sinn Féin activists swarmed into the Marine Terminals depot and took over the control room by force of numbers. “They’ve lost control of the control room,” East Wall community support group organiser Joe Mooney announced to cheers.
As hapless security guards stood by, the crowd turned towards a nearby administration office where management had locked themselves in. Several Dublin councillors – including Sinn Féin Councillor Matthew McDonagh – promised their support to the Dublin dockers’ fight before the marchers dispersed peacefully, pledging to return if need be.
SUPPORT: Sinn Féin’s Matthew McDonagh and Mary Lou McDonald with striking dockers