In the early hours of this morning, Gardaí at the behest of big business KPMG/Debenhams forcibly removed Ex Debenhams workers and their supporters from the loading bay in Parnell Street. These workers have spent the last year preventing the stock inside the stores from being removed, and the Gardaí played a shameful role last night in aiding trucks driven by scabs to gain access to the bay that was blocked by the picket line.
Barricades were erected and several vans of the Public Order Unit arrived to break the strike. Eventually they gained access to the loading bay and forcibly dragged workers and supporters out by their arms and legs.
This dispute has laid bare the role of the Gardaí and the State. Legislation that was passed under the guise of Covid-19 has been used since the beginning against the strike, with workers’ names being taken at a number of demonstrations for alleged breaches of the legislation. An injunction was granted to liquidator KPMG a number of months ago, after less than an hour in the High Court that essentially criminalised the right of these workers to continue their pickets. Workers and supporters were arrested and put in cells following an occupation of the Henry St store in September. In a number of stores the Gardaí have already assisted in removing workers and helping trucks get past the picket line. Again last night, protesters were threatened with fines and imprisonment for breaching Covid legislation.
As socialists, we oppose any increase in state and Garda powers. We have seen how it has been used against the working class, movements like Black Lives Matter, protests against the murder of Sarah Everard in London and the Debenhams workers. The state will always act in the interests of the Establishment, private property and big business.
Attacks on workers’ rights will continue as we are forced to pay the price of the pandemic. It is essential that we transform our trade unions into fighting trade unions that can defend workers from attacks from bosses. We must also build a mass movement of the working class that can fight for workers’ rights and equality and replace this barbaric capitalist system with a fair and socialist society.