6 January 2000 Edition

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Basque trade unionists visit Ireland

A progressive trade union, anti the European Union's economic and monetary policies, active on social political and economic issues, with a thriving youth section and leading the campaign for a 35-hour week and a social wage - I had to pinch myself.

No, I wasn't dreaming. Such a trade union exists but it isn't an Irish one. It is Langile Abertzaleen Batzordeak (LAB), the Union of Basque Nationalist workers. Two of its members were in Ireland just before Christmas and they met with political and trade union representatives.

LAB youth representaive Ainhoa Etxaide and international relations representative Jesus Mario Gete met An Phoblacht and told us of their work on behalf of Basque workers. The challenges faced by the Basques from the negative effects of the EU and fickle transnational businesses are very similar to those faced by Irish workers.

LAB believes that this time of falling unemployment and growing prosperity is a time to campaign for better working conditions. Short-term contracts and bad working conditions are increasingly prevalent in the Basque Country. LAB, along with other unions and social and political groups, is campaigning for a 35-hour week and a social wage. Last May, there was a one-day general strike in support of this aim and support has been mobilised across society for the 35-hour week.

LAB have provided an interesting benchmark for Irish trade unions. They have shown that it is possible to be active on social and political issues as well as industrial relations. One wonders how many unions in Ireland are up to the challenge?

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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