Socialist Worker

Irish workers unite for general strike

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2144

Hundreds of thousands of workers in the Republic of Ireland are set to take part in a general strike on Monday of next week.

Public and private sector workers will strike together. The airports will close. The buses will stop running as bus workers start a week-long strike against job cuts.

Many groups have balloted for strikes and other groups of workers are expected to take unofficial action on the same day.

The government has introduced austerity measures that cut into workers’ living standards while bailing out banks that have been embroiled in a series of scandals.

A major trigger for the one-day strike is the government’s attempt to increase the pension levy paid by public sector workers.

The strike is backed by the ICTU, the equivalent of the British TUC, and all the major unions.

Anger at the Irish government’s response to the recession erupted last month when 120,000 took to the streets of the capital Dublin in the biggest demonstration for decades.

Many have taken inspiration from the factory occupation by the Waterford Crystal workers, which ended this week.

The Waterford occupation has shown people that they can fight back – and action is spreading.

Taxi drivers and airport workers protested over job cuts on Friday of last week.

This followed a lunchtime protest the day before by civil service workers. Daily anti-government protests are taking place involving trade unions and community groups.

Bedrock

National agreements between the government and the unions have been the bedrock of Irish industrial relations for years. Yet even in the boom years, Irish workers received little gain from these arrangements.

A key part of the Irish government’s current strategy is to attack wages and drive a wedge between public and private sector workers.

But instead of dividing the workers, the government has united them in hostility to its policies.

Some union leaders are desperate for a “social solidarity pact” with the government and the employers. But they have to deal with massive anger on the ground.

The scale of the protests and the momentum for strikes mean the model of social partnership is dead. The strength of the strikes can force the government onto the backfoot.


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