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Inter city bus workers in Ireland launched widespread secondary pickets at 4am this morning. Solidarity from transport workers at the other services picketed meant that most of the country ground to a halt as morning rush hour approached, almost all trains, Dublin bus and light rail services did not operate. The action is a clear demonstration of the power transport workers hold because of their position in economies.This action took place on the 8th morning of a indefinite strike by the inter city bus drivers of Bus Eireann. In a familiar international pattern, this service had been deliberately starved of public funds over the last decade resulting in a deterioration in quality and an increase in ticket costs. As elsewhere the purpose of doing this is to soften up public attitudes towards privatisation of what becomes a ‘broken’ service.
The state broadcaster (RTE) has played along with this agenda. (This would be shocking except that RTE always echo the government line). Almost every mention of the strike refers to Bus Eireann as ‘loss making’ - as if it should be about profit generation rather than service provision. In reality the service is ‘loss making’ because the subsidy it receives is less than that given to the millionaire owned horse racing industry (or indeed the same state broadcaster).
The cause of the dispute is a widespread attack on workers’ pay and conditions. Some bus drivers could lose as much as 30%. This would be no joke for any workers anywhere but in Ireland because of the crazy ‘property boom’ any such worker who borrowed money to buy a house in the last 10 years would almost certainly be now unable to make the repayments and would lose their home.
Government strategy has been to try and pretend the dispute is nothing to do with them and to be sorted out between workers and management. As the reason the service is ‘loss making’ is that the government cut the tiny subsidy public transport receives, delibrately creating the funding crisis, this is clearly a nonsense claim.
Bus Eireann got about 35 million in public funds last year but the Horse racing industry received 80 million and the Horse and Greyhound racing fund another 60 million. Although we don’t have the exact figures to hand we are confident the 110,000 people plus who use Bus Eireann for transport easily outnumber those travelling via race horse and greyhound, even though the millionaires who own those industries received a subsidy 4 times greater. No doubt the government would point the tourist benefit of horse racing and the jobs created around it, however that’s nothing in comparison with the tourist benefit of having a good public transport system that can get people around Ireland.
The action this morning contained 3 general lessons;
1. Public transport has to be viewed as a needed public service rather than a ‘for profit’ business. Huge numbers of people are dependent on public transport, the service needs to be expanded rather than underfunded as it has been in the last decades. In fact we need a massive expansion in public transport funding both to improve services and reduce ticket costs.
2. Workers in key sectors like transport have enormous power. Minister Shane Ross might have thought he was being clever by washing his hands of the dispute, this morning they have proved that the government cannot get away with that. ‘Business as usual’ will ground to a halt all over the country this morning as many workers are unable to get in on time.
3. The 1990 Industrial Relations Act made secondary picketing illegal. That’s why the pickets this morning had hand written signs rather than the standard union branded ones. This morning we are seeing that the law isn’t all powerful but also that the cost of making it illegal is no notice walk-outs, no one could ‘give notice’ without risking prosecution.
We should also recognise the courage of those picketing this morning, some of whom have talked to hostile state media who have broadcast their names despite the risk of being sued this opens them up to. Some have talked nonsense about the transport chaos being caused by a handful of picketers but not only is it clear that this was a well co-ordinated action across a large number of locations, the same industrial relations act only allows pickets of half a dozen.
The shutdown of the transport system will have a big impact on lots of workers, it will feel frustrating to many. But let’s be clear - the blame for the disruption lies with the government and management that have tried to force further cuts through. Until they took this action many people in the big we’re ignoring the strike as it had little impact on them, this morning is a useful reminder that we should not treat public transport as an expected service but as something we need to actively defend.
Secondly and more importantly a victory for Bus Eireann workers is good for all of us despite the short term pain as it means a better public transport system and a blow against ‘race to the bottom’ conditions being imposed. The employers have used such tactics over the last 20 years to ensure a huge wealth transfer from us to them, it’s long past time that was turned back and it can only be turned back by a hard fight. Because they have power as tranport workers the bus workers at the tip of the spear are taking the big risks here, those of us who are will gain from any victory they may win should be willing to accept small sacrifices as part of the collective cost of struggle.
Victory for the bus workers is also important for almost everyone living on this planet. Why is that? The deliberate underfunding of public transport pushes those who can afford it towards using individual cars for the same journey. There are enormous differences in the amounts of climate change gases produced by cities in western Europe and north America for the simple reason that in the US private cars are far far more common for such journeys. At a global as well as a local level we need to recognise public transport for the essential good that it is and make sure funding is expanded.
International Womens Day in Ireland saw thousands take to the streets in a sequence of 'in work time' protests under the heading 'Strike4Repeal'. Abortion is illegal in almost all circumstances and the protests were an attempt by pro-choice activists to forced the government to stop delaying a referendum to repeal the anti-choice 8th Amendment placed in the Irish constitution in 1983. Workers Solidarity Movement members took part in organising the day and in the aftermath produced a number of articles and videos detailing what happened.In January WSM explained that the demand was 'A referendum on the 8th or #strike4repeal on March 8th' explaining that "The newly formed group, Strike for Repeal, are preparing to ‘strike’ if a date is not set for a referendum to repeal he 8th Amendment by International Women’s day on March 8th. In a press release the group has said “The strike will not be an industrial strike in the traditional sense but could include taking an annual leave day off work, refraining from domestic work for the day, wearing black in solidarity or staging a walkout during your lunch break. We also encourage any business owners in a position to close their services at no cost to workers, to do so for all or part of the day as a solidarity action.”
In the context of the farcical attempt of the government to delay any efforts to Repeal the 8th through the Citizens Assembly a strike should certainly cause concern for our anti-women TD’s. The strike is the greatest source of leveraging power that workers have; as workers we are exploited, as women workers we are exploited further. A gendered pay gap of 20% currently exists in Ireland, meaning that for every euro a man makes a women earns 80 cent. Outside of the workplace women still do the majority of the house and care work. This work is unrecognised, often termed an invisible form of work and it means women are working a double shift for the wage of one.
The 8th Amendment is barbaric, forcing 9 people a day to travel for an abortion, countless more taking illegal pills at home, one women given a forced c-section at 24 weeks, another who was brain dead being kept on a life support machine despite her families wishes because she was pregnant, and resulting in the deaths of Bimbo Onanuga and Savita Halappanavar. It is a tool used by the state to control women and pregnant people; to force either pregnancy or exilt upon them. Having control of our reproductive systems, choosing if and when we have children is fundamental to our freedom. Having control over our bodies is essential to gaining control over our lives, not having them dictated to us by bosses or politicians.
We spelled the situation in Ireland out in more detail a few days beforehand in '8 reasons to Strike for Repeal this 8th March
1. World-Class Tyranny
Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world more so than places like Syria and Afghanistan. Only Malta is more restrictive within the EU.
2. Democracy & Equality
No woman of child-bearing age has been allowed to have a say in her reproductive rights.The last vote was in 1983. This country claims to be democratic yet denies women basic medical services and control of their bodies. In the Irish law a woman’s life is equal to the foetus. This is not equality.
Up to 12 women a day travel abroad for an abortion but not every woman can travel. Migrant women and asylum seekers, women with disabilities, minors and predominantly working-class women are discriminated against here. The abortion ban only increases class divides and helps to perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
4. Abortion Pills
The other option is to use abortion pills but it is illegal to obtain them, and increasingly pills are being seized by customs, women who take them are at risk of being reported to the police if they have complications or need follow up care.
5. Trans, Non-Binary, & Intersex people
Trans-Men, non-binary people and some inter-sex people need access to abortion too. For some trans men, being forced to carry a pregnancy to term (or at all) is in serious conflict with their identity as men and can be traumatic as it forces them to do something with their bodies that feels alien to them. Trans people are invisible in Irish law and their struggle for bodily autonomy is a part of the struggle for reproductive rights.
If a woman is raped in this country and is caught having an abortion she will do more time in prison than her rapist. A woman faces a jail sentence of 14 years if she has an abortion whereas the maximum jail term for rapists is 10 years. Women who are raped are not entitled to abortions and face the trauma of being blamed for assault by a patriarchal police which assumes that it’s a woman’s responsibility not to get raped (i.e. don’t wear the wrong clothes, don’t drink too much, don’t go out alone, etc.)
7. Fatal Foetal Abnormality
A woman is not allowed to have an abortion in Ireland even in cases of Fatal Foetal Abnormality. Instead Ireland offers prenatal hospices where women can wait out their pregnancies as they wait for the foetus to slowly die inside them. Moreover, unless the pregnancy itself is a direct threat to the mother’s life she may not have an abortion and can be refused treatment for other conditions if it threatens the health of the foetus. Pregnant women with cancer have been refused both abortion and chemotherapy at a doctor’s prerogative.
8. Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy against her will has been called ‘cruel, inhumane and degrading’ by the UN Committee on Human Rights. Abortion is legal in Ireland only if there is a high risk of death to the woman. Suicide is grounds for an abortion but the woman has to be assessed by up to 6 doctors. These doctors have the power to decide if a woman will be allowed an abortion. These doctors must be HSE approved and this panel only includes 1 psychiatrist. And the Ms.Y case has proven that the ‘protection of life’ provision offers no protection at all to suicidal women.
Ireland has one of the highest rates of migration to other countries in the war;d, partially for that reason solidarity protests took place in many countries across the globe. In the days beforehand though there was particular interest in solidarity gestures from Rojava in the form of a number of images if women there holding #Strike4Repeal placards. Accompanying an album of photos like this one they say "The revolution here in Rojava is a women’s revolution. From the front lines of the fight against ISIS, to running the cantons to trade unions that ensure all working women have their voices heard. International women’s day has special significance here, with events and demonstrations taking place all over the region. We stand with women worldwide in the struggle against patriarchy, and today we stand with the women of Ireland. We call on the Irish Government to repeal the 8th amendment and allow women rights over their own bodies! Today news reporters, trade unionists, HPC (civilian self-defence units) heard about the strike and stood in solidarity. Today women across Qamishlo support #strike4repeal Strike 4 Repeal"
The day itself started with statues all over the capital, Dublin, being covered and then rolling pickets of government offices. This built up to a large midday protest when thousands of people, many dressed in black, occupied the main bridge in the city centre. Smaller protests took place in cities and towns across Ireland including some in the north of Ireland - still ruled by England - where abortion is also mostly illegal and where police have been raiding homes and offices in the search for abortion pills.
You will find detailed coverage of what happened, including several videos, on the WSM website at http://www.wsm.ie/strike4repeal
ireland / britain / community struggles / opinion / analysis Tuesday March 21, 2017 00:18 byTomás Lynch
The occupation of Apollo House in Dublin was the largest direct action in Ireland in recent years, but it did not materialize out of nowhere.
On December 16, 2016 media reporters and cameramen jostled each outside the carpark of Apollo House, a nine-storey city center office building in Dublin that had been lying vacant for over a year. The journalists were there to report on a “public intervention” into the ongoing homelessness emergency in the city, in which a campaign group called Home Sweet Home, led by well-known celebrities and musicians Glen Hansard and Damien Dempsey, occupied the empty building and opened it as a hostel for the city’s homeless.
In the face of a housing crisis that has been intensifying ever since the economic crash in 2008, visible rough sleeping on the city’s streets, rising homelessness statistics, soaring rent, and the large-scale purchase of property and mortgage loan-books by predatory foreign vulture funds, this collection of activists occupied the building, which is controlled by NAMA, the government-owned asset management agency set up at the height of the crisis to swallow the toxic loans incurred by the nation’s property developers and speculators.
Over three-and-a-half weeks during the coldest time of the year, Apollo House provided beds for over 90 homeless people, in a welcoming and safe environment that was open 24 hours a day and where they could come and go as they pleased. In contrast to the previous month, no homeless people lost their lives in Ireland while the occupation was going on. The campaign received 4,000 applications from people who wanted to help, and collected over €160,000 on the campaign crowdfunding page, as well as receiving countless personal testimonies from people whose own lives had been affected by the ongoing crisis — young families forced to move back into their parents’ homes with their children, or sleeping in their cars.
Above all, the Apollo House occupation generated an unprecedented amount of media attention on the homelessness and housing emergency in the face of government inaction, and forced Simon Coveney, the Minister of Housing, to the negotiating table to try to get the activists to leave peacefully.
ORGANIZING A NETWORK
But though it might have appeared spontaneous, this was a well-planned and well-organized campaign. The various actors were able to move fast when the opportunity presented itself only because the networks were already in place. “Organizing” is a word thrown about a lot by the left, as the essential step in the creation of powerful movements that can effect change, but often what “organizing” actually involves can be harder to pinpoint.
Tue 30 May, 13:31
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