SIPTU Fightback

A newsletter for SIPTU activists seeking a democratic & fighting union

The bosses are not our partners

SIPTU Fightback is a newsletter for SIPTU activists who believe that the strength of our Union should be used to fight low pay, job losses, wage restraint and cheap labour grades. We think that can only be done effectively when the members have real control of their own union. Our aim is to provide a link-up for the many activists in SIPTU who want a fighting Union, but who feel isolated and powerless. We want to provide news and views, an open forum and a modest service for those activists.

We hope that this bulletin could be a small step towards the creation of a 'solidarity network' which can support workers in struggle for better pay, better conditions and trade union rights; win support for the repeal or radical reform of the 1990 Industrial Relations Act and for workers who defy it; win the argument against 'social partnership' deals which tie us to the interests of the bosses; promote greater democracy in our Union, particularly more membership involvement and decision making powers at grassroots level; support struggles of the unemployed, the poor and the oppressed and for real equality for women in the workforce.

Our editorial committee is open to broadly like-minded SIPTU members and the newsletter will be independent of all political parties. Its pages are open to views not in accord with our own. Signed articles will not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial committee. The committee members are Des Derwin, Electronics and Engineering Branch (a member of the Dublin Private Sector Regional Executive Committee); Mary Muldowney, Education Branch (who is President of her Branch) and Alan MacSimóin, Education Branch (a member of Trinity College Section Committee). We do not speak in these pages for any of the above Union bodies.

Solidarity not Social Partnership - Why SIPTU should say no to another partnership deal
Pamphlet produced for SIPTU Thursday 6th October 2005 Biennial National Conference in Cork. "Conference should vote against Motion 59 because social partnership is a lie, a rip-off and has floored our movement. SIPTU needs a new direction and a renewal as a fighting," participatory organisation. PDF file of this text

SIPTU Fightback mailing list

Our mailing list is a low volume one (we won't overload your mailbox!) carrying announcements, brief reports of union events, news of strikes and contributions to the discussion about the type of union we want. All SIPTU members (and other interested folk) are welcome.

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Newsletter index

No 11 - Summer 2000


Our absence coincided with the campaign on a new partnership deal, in fact. We were active in that campaign and joined with others in SIPTU members Against a Partnership Deal.

Two reactions to New Directions

We learnt recently of a new initiative, New Directions, an "informal network" aiming to turn SIPTU into a fighting union and return the power to the grassroots. Our reactions on the SIPTU Fightback editorial board were similar but our views on how to respond differed. So, after discussion failed to produce an agreed approach, we decided, in the spirit of SIPTU Fightback to run both views in the newsletter.

Vice Presidential election in SIPTU

The main feature of the results of the May Vice Presidential election was the runaway success of Jack O'Connor, who received 70,722, 66.8% of the vote, the highest ever percentage in the four elections since 1997

Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (PPF) - Disappointment not Dismay

The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (PPF) was accepted in the February-March ballot. The PPF's opponents were defeated, but it was a defeat akin to the Easter Rising: against overwhelming odds.

On the buses

As we go to print, the report is still awaited from the three man commission appointed as part of the interim resolution of the Dublin Bus strike, although it was supposed to be available by 1st May

No 10 - Autumn 1999

Partnership Exposed as free collective bargaining breaks through

Issue 9 - Feb '99

This issue of the newsletter is a special edition produced for the various seminars and shop stewards meetings, being held in SIPTU at this time, on the future of bargaining after Partnership 2000.

Issue 8 - Nov 1998

P2000 and One

The campaign to secure the successor to Partnership 2000, and to tie the unions into a fifth partnership programme, has already begun.

We can't go on not meeting like this

When we started this project we decided that we were not going to provide a neverending service for everyone else. Our hope is to work with other activists to improve our union - not to work for them

Newsline Slams 'Celtic Jungle' Shock!

A look at the offical SIPTU paper 'Newsline'

Ryanair update

The report of the Enquiry into the dispute and the closure of the airport, together with the Union's response to the report, amounts to a crushing defeat.

Fran English

With shock and great regret we learnt of the tragic death of Fran English

SIPTU members take a stand against racism

It was very encouraging to see such strong manifestations of worker solidarity with refugees and asylum-seekers

Charity sacks activist

Which prominent charity was responsible for the sacking of a SIPTU member

Stop the bus

The rejection of the Dublin Bus 'viability plan' was due in no small measure to the campaigning of the cross-union rank & file Busworkers Action Group

SIPTU's Regions: Dying on their feet?

The news that no Region in the Union is to hold an election for the incoming Regional Committees, because nominations have not exceeded places

Lockout at the Botanic Gardens

Craft gardeners in the Botanic Gardens have been locked out since 19 October, after management suspended them for refusing to co-operate with significant increases in their workload

SIPTU and CPSU launch housing campaign

SIPTU and the Civil and Public Service Union have now joined forces to campaign for an alleviation of the housing crisis

National minimum wage

A bug seems to have gotten into the section on the National Minimum Wage in SIPTU's pre-budget submission

Everything Stops For Tea

The besuited and sleek gentlemen and ladies of the Labour Court, custodians of enlightened and modern human resource management, pillars of partnership, want the Oerlikon workers to go without a tea-break

That's Partnership

Issue 7 - July 1998

Editorial: Happy Birthday Fightback

SIPTU is the biggest union in Ireland. It is also one of the most bureaucratic and conservative. Its forerunners - ITGWU and FWUI - had inspiring early histories but that doesn't impact on Liberty Hall in the 1990s.

The Rank and file revolt

The first blossoms of a revolt by rank & file workers have appeared in this summer of unpromising weather but reawakening industrial action

Nolans Transport: a major victory ...but no hard feelings

SIPTU's "major victory" in the Supreme Court on 15th May still remains a major defeat in New Ross and in national industrial terms

Partnership 2000 and your pay

This year P2000 provides a basic pay rise of two and bit per cent and a local negotiable two per cent. In contrast to that, profits, share prices, property prices, top salaries are soaring

National Minimum Wage Now

The trade union movement, together with community and voluntary organisations, has secured a very important breakthrough with the proposed establishment of a National Minimum Wage.

ICTU head Peter Cassels talks about his idea of 'trade unionism'

Mutiny Against The 'Bounty' - Brickies take on Zoe

BATU bricklayers on the Zoe Developments site in Dublin's Wolfe Tone Street have been on strike since May. Zoe Developments are the building company with the appalling safety record that led to their managing director being fined and severely censured in court.

Bedding down with strange bedfellows

The banner of P2000 may be ripped and soiled from ever more breaches, welcome and unwelcome, but the machinery beneath it rolls relentlessly along, particularly the indoctrination of shop stewards and members into workplace partnership. 

That's Partnership

1798: the United Irishmen and the early Trade Unions

The leaders of the United Irishmen were, as has often been pointed out, mainly from middle-class, prosperous backgrounds and many of them were actively opposed to combinations, the late 18th century trade unions.

Issue 6 - April 1998

Ryanair: Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

When Dublin Airport closed on Saturday, 7 March, trade unionists, depressed by weeks of appalling passivity cried 'at last! at last!' and made a holiday in their hearts. If SIPTU fails to achieve recognition at Ryanair out of this dispute, it is not just your policies that should be questioned, but your very competence to run an industrial struggle, and the Union should call you to account

Victory for BATU

The bricklayers' dispute with Cramptons Builders was resolved with a clear victory for the workers.


Partnership: the mindfix continues

The more social and workplace partnership becomes a sick but dangerous joke the more our leaders press on with its promotion. Presently there's an indoctrination offensive on workplace partnership

The New SIPTU-Voluntary Bodies Campaign

The newly launched joint campaign between SIPTU and some of the main 'voluntary groups', for more concessions for those on lower incomes in the next (1999) Budget, is to be welcomed and supported by all SIPTU activists (in so far as we'll be asked to do something apart from posting cards).

Aer Lingus catering workers on the picket line

Catering workers in Aer Lingus were forced into unofficial action for four days in early April. As we reported in December, catering workers were faced with the introduction of a new outsourced sandwich service which would ultimately have the effect of doing away with their jobs

General Secretary election : "Enemies" and Partners

After the results of the March election for General Secretary, Carolann Duggan said something just right for the occasion, but which seems to have shocked some in the media. While she has been critical of the union leadership, she said, members should never lose sight of the fact that the employers were the "enemy"

Number Crunching : General Secretary Election Results

That's partnership

Details of recent on the ground consequneces of social partnership

National Minimum Wage Commission Report recommends £4.40 per hour

Employment Minister Mary Harney released the Report of the National Minimum Wage Commission on April 5th, nearly four months after the report was promised. The final recommendation was £4.40 per hour, to be implemented in April 2000.

Our History: Massive Trade Union protests undermined by ICTU sell-out

On 11 March, 50,000 people marched through Dublin, most of them calling for a general strike. An estimated 150,000 or more people marched through Dublin on 20 March and other protests took place in thirty towns throughout the country, including a march by 40,000 workers in Cork.

Issue 5 - Feb 1998

Building Workers against the Black Economy

Rank and file building workers, for the most part members of the Building & Allied Trades Union, have set up a group called 'Building Workers against the Black Economy'. They held a public meeting on 29 January to let other trade unionists know why they have been involved in action in Dublin against Cramptons Builders and why this particular dispute is symptomatic of terrible problems for workers in the building industry.

Carolann challenges again

Readers won't be surprised to learn we're backing Carolann Duggan again; this time for General Secretary. Anyone seeking change in SIPTU can only go for Carolann again this time. The other two candidates are from supports of P2000, the partnership approach and are long associated with the establishment and status quo in the Union.

Editorial : The Good News and the Bad News

Perhaps 15 January 1998 might come to be regarded as the day the 'long dark night' of Irish trade unionism began to end. On that day, an unofficial rank and file group of construction workers, Building Workers Against the Black Economy, led about 100 members of various unions on two mass pickets of two building sites

What's going on? Beyond Recognition

There were two issues at the SIPTU National Conference in Ennis last October, on which the Union leadership took a strong and clear stand: a national minimum wage and trade union recognition.

Trade unionists join anti-racist campaign

Having been used to exporting our people (to Britain, the USA, Australia, Canada, etc.) the hysteria that was whipped up when a few thousand asylum seekers and immigrants came here was astounding. The papers were full of racist scaremongering. The worst example must be the The Star's "Refugee rapists on the rampage" headline (June 13th.)

Take your Partners (for everything they've got!)

The partnership ramphwagen rolls confidently along quite oblivious to the real world it like to refer to. Now SIPTU has a partnership and restructuring unit to monitor/encourage workplace partnership deals.

Our History: Rosie Hackett and the union women of Jacobs Biscuits

On 22 August 1911 three thousand women at Jacob's factory withdrew their labour in pursuit of a pay claim. Jim Larkin said the conditions for the biscuit makers were 'sending them from this earth twenty years before their time'. A contemporary description of the strikers, although not exactly sympathetic to their position, shows clearly how ready workers were to support each other in times of strife.


Issue 4 - December 1997

SIPTU's National Conference : Paradox at Ennis

There was a great anomaly at the centre of the SIPTU National Conference at Ennis in October The Conference took a militant stand on some key issues, notably a national minimum wage and trade union recognition. There was mutiny on the status of women in the Union. The Rule change increasing the nomination requirements for General Officer elections was defeated

Pay and recognition: Press on Now

The Union's National Conference in Ennis adopted a target of £5 per hour for a National Minimum Wage. Six Motions to Conference altogether demanded a National Minimum wage. At Conference, Union President Jimmy Somers said "if the Commission did not deliver he would recommend that we support any group of organised low paid workers to reach that target"

Making our unions 'employer friendly':The ICTU's Partnership Guidelines

The ICTU has produced a booklet called 'Partnership in the Workplace - Guidelines for Unions'. The production was funded, not by the unions, but by the ADAPT Community Initiative of the European Social Fund.

The Liverpool Dockers are still fighting for jobs and union rights

In August 1995, Torside, a labour supply company set up by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC) sacked 20 workers, who were earning as little as £3.50 an hour, with no sick pay or holiday pay and no pension fund. In response to the sackings, 500 Liverpool dockers went on strike in September of that year. MDHC told them they were sacked and were being replaced by scab labour

Aer Lingus Catering Staff asked to co-operate in scrapping their own jobs!

Last month, management in Aer Lingus attempted to replace the meal produced by the Catering Section for the European economy flights with a sandwich meal brought in from Bewleys. At two general meetings called by staff to discuss the issue, they voted unanimously to refuse to handle the Bewleys product.

Blowing the Whistle on Sexual Harassment

Elaine Harvey was initially well received from the floor of our Union's conference in Ennis, when she confessed her nervousness and before she had finished her speech. But after the session, even before it hit the media, there was an atmosphere of defensiveness and unease.

That's "workplace partnership"

Our History: The National Federation of Shop Stewards & 'New Liberty'

There is nothing new in the idea that ordinary trade unionists need to come together to look after our own interests, and the interests of the unemployed and the poor. It was done back in the 1970s to oppose the no-strike National Wage Agreements (forerunners of Partnership 2000). After the NWA was voted in the activists did not shut up shop and go home.

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Correspondence to SIPTU Fightback, 22 Melrose Avenue, Dublin 3

See also Portraits of a Partnership Portraits of a Partnership

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