I was part of a delegation of British trade unionists who joined the 100,000 people marching in Dublin on Friday of last week. We were there to support workers occupying two Irish Ferries ships in Welsh ports.
There was a real sense of unity. Every section of the Irish trade union movement was there. Public sector workers united with private sector workers in solidarity with striking workers and in defence of migrant workers’ rights.
The Irish Ferries dispute is a warning of what Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s neo-liberal vision for workers in Britain is about. Across Europe the proposed Bolkestein directive will allow the bosses to employ workers in Britain on the worst safety regulations and least labour protection they can find in Europe.
Our government attacks pension rights, demanding that we work longer and harder to pay for our retirement. The lack of money for our pensions is in stark contrast to the bottomless pit that exists to fund the occupation of Iraq.
The scale of New Labour’s assault needs the sort of response we have seen in Ireland. Mass protests and strikes would stop Brown and Blair in their tracks. Irish workers have shown that pressure can force the union leaders to take a stand and that it is possible to mobilise massive numbers into action.
We need the same determination from our union movement here.We have the power to win.