UNITE and SIPTU members in the Premier Periclase plant in Drogheda are facing into their fourth week of strike action. A brazen and blatant attempt to de-recognise the unions in the plant, and to unilaterally
enforce changes to terms and conditions, has been met head on by the workers and their unions.
The very best traditions of the workers’ movement are on display on the Drogheda picket line and the resilience and determination of the workers is clear to all who talk to them.
Having initially refused to negotiate at all, the plant management have begun to engage with the Workplace Relations Commission. This is a first, initial victory for the workers. There is no doubting that the
determination and fighting spirit of the UNITE and SIPTU members will force further concessions from the plant management.
This strike, one of several significant disputes which have broken out during the COVID-19 crisis, raises important political points.
COVID-19 has given bosses the perfect excuse to launch more attacks on workers. Bosses are grabbing the chance to implement long planned attacks on basic terms and conditions of work.
Sick pay schemes, pension schemes, flexible working along with guaranteed hours, premium pay for unsocial hours and secure contracts are increasingly for the chop in too many companies. The very concept of
a good job, one that allows workers to actually build decent lives, has been under attack for decades. But now that attack is intensifying under the crisis provoked by the pandemic.
A weak and ineffective industrial relations system, which gives nearly all of the power to the bosses, who can decide to engage or not, is increasingly seen as incapable of protecting workers. Industrial relations institutions that cannot stop attacks on workers are not fit for purpose. The trade union movement needs to develop a more critical approach to these institutions.
In their lust for profit above all else the boss class see providing for sick pay schemes to allow, for instance, a worker recover from long term illness, or providing a pension scheme to guarantee a secure retirement, as things they will no longer tolerate.
Sick pay schemes, pension schemes, secure contracts that guarantee a living wage should be non-negotiable for all jobs. We see in the meat processing sector that the lack of sick pay is forcing workers to work while they have COVID, leading to huge outbreaks in plants, endangering communities.
Every worker, no matter what job they do, should have access to sick pay, a pension, living wage and secure contracts. Militant Left believes the trade union movement must go on the offensive to defend terms and conditions at the present time.
The bosses fully intend to use this crisis to re-shape the world of work to their advantage. That means a further decline in employment standards for workers. Bosses are waging class war on workers, and that will only worsen as the present pandemic continues.
Workers and trade unions must start waging class war against the bosses. As a first step there should be no concessions or compromises on basic terms and conditions of employment.
We have to go further. We have to look beyond the present system where only the bosses make the big decisions. Militant Left stand for workers’ unity and a socialist future. A future where workers, not bosses, democratically make all the important decisions in industry and the economy.