Category Archives: Ireland

Dublin Bakery Workers Occupy Factory Over Unpaid Wages

“Every time I asked for my wage, he gave an excuse, 3 days ago they started to take the equipment away.”

Mainly migrant workers at a Dublin bakery went into occupation yesterday, after their boss closed the factory and started removing equipment. Here is their statement, written before the occupation began:

We the workers have been picketing the Paris Bakery & Pastry Ltd on Moore St, Dublin since Tuesday 20th, 2014. This is in response to our employers Mr Yannick Forel and Ms Ruth Saville failure to pay us wages owed of over €55,000.

We the workers were locked out, an old tactic used by unscrupulous employers. We feel disappointed, angry, cheated, frustrated, and betrayed. We have had no response from these employers and we will now stage a sit in until we get back our stolen wages.

Beatrice Douat said “we are devastated by the action of our employers who have deceived, exploited and abused us. These employers are breaking the law by stealing our wages and the Government should step in and not allow this injustice to happen to workers”.

We the staff of Paris Bakery are waiters, managers, bakers, chefs and kitchen porters. We have worked hard to keep our jobs in what has been a very difficult working environment. As everybody knows jobs are hard to come by in Ireland and to keep. Our boss was hard to please; we were required to work in poor conditions, with no health and safety training, no safety shoes in the bakery and kitchen and no contracts of employment. Some workers were paid as little as €5.00 per hour. The Chefs were paid a flat rate but worked up to 70 hours per week. No staff were paid overtime, there was no holiday pay and no breaks. Due to these conditions there was a high turn high turnover in the bakery and restaurant.

Anissa Hosany, a mother of two said, “we are all worried about our money, our futures; some of us can’t pay the rent and are worried about supporting our children at this time. One of our colleagues has become homeless as a result of this. We are also worried about finding employment without references”.

We the workers want to refute the employer’s claim that the government and the workers are at fault for the failure of his business. The employers have known that this building was to close for a long time. We assert that it is poor business management and planning that has created this situation.

We are all worried about our money, our futures; some of us can’t pay the rent and are worried about supporting our children at this time. One of our colleagues has become homeless as a result of this.

The Paris Bakery workers are calling on Mr Yannick Forel and Ms Ruth Saville of Paris Bakery & Pastry Ltd to pay us our outstanding wages immediately. 

We also call on the following consumers of the Paris Bakery – Demonware, Terra Madra, the Science Galley, Cinnamon, The Westerbury Hotel, La Masion, Hot Stove, Lilliput, FX Buckey, Food Game, Honest to God, Rygby’s, Artiseins, Bakery, Fontana Café, Organge Tree Bakery – not to accept goods until We are paid our wages.

The general secretary of the Mandate trade union is John Douglas is also occupying the building along with the employees. Douglas says that the situation is similar to that which occurred before in the case of workers at Vita Cortex, La Senza, HMV and others where workers were forced to take “extraordinary actions to receive unpaid entitlements”.

You can follow the occupation on the Paris Bakery’ s employees fighting for their wages Facebook page, and on Twitter via #parisbakery. Workers Solidarity Movement are also providing lots of updates on their Facebook. Finally, the Paris Bakery occupiers are calling on their supporters to sign a petition demanding that they are paid their owed wages.

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Irish Communities Unite to Resist Water Charges

Two have been hospitalised defending their right to water from the Troika

For more than three weeks now, people in major Irish cities have been taking direct action to prevent Irish Water from installing so-called ‘smart meters’, which many believe will push the cost of water – the most vital of all substances, beyond their ability to pay. In doing so, they are providing the first active resistance to the attacks on the working class demanded by the ‘Troika’ since Irish austerity began six years ago.

The resistance seems to have begun in the south-west city of Cork, before spreading to Dublin. There are few reports of it taking place elsewhere, but then there are very few reports at all, considering the significance of what is happening. As ever, it seems that the corporate, political and media establishment is seeking to downplay working class struggle, due to fear of ‘contagion’ to other locations and other causes

Just over a million meters are scheduled to be installed, and from the autumn the homes will go on the meter for the first time. International studies have shown that meters have reduced household water consumption by between 10 and 15%. But of course, water use isn’t even as ‘optional’ as electricity is. It is an essential part of human life, and of the human body. So in that sense, no wonder people are resisting.

At its most simple, resistance involves community members literally placing their bodies where the Irish Water contractors are trying to dig, as shown on this video. In other cases – where holes are discovered already dug – people are climbing into them, and therefore preventing the workers placing the meters there. Particularly in Cork, it seems that those resisting the meters are creating phone trees and other means of coordinating their defence of their living conditions within and between estates. As of yet, the Gardai (police) do not seem to be intervening forcefully on the side of Irish Water, even though they have warned of possible arrests from the beginning. But this surely can’t be ruled out.

The blockades started around the 14th April, in Cork’s Ashbrook Heights estate, and had reached Dublin by the 23rd. On 30th, an Ashbrook Heights protester named John O’Donovan was taken to hospital by ambulance, after falling to the ground in a confrontation with an Irish Water employee. An eyewitness complained that the employee had ran at a barrier, knocking O’Donovan to the ground.

Protester Theresa Kelly was assaulted in Dublin today

On May Day, activists occupied the Irish Water HQ in protest at the installations. The next day, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny was heckled by anti-water meter protesters in Cork, as he campaigned for the European elections. After a few days of relative calm, the conflict seems to have intensified once more. Yesterday, Environment Minister Phil Hogan threatened that the water supply will be reduced “to a trickle” for those who don’t pay their bills. Today in Dublin, a woman had her elbow fractured when she had a plastic barrier “shoved into her”, resulting in “her falling violently to the ground”.

The attacks on access to water for the Irish working class were dictated by the ‘Troika’ of International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission back in 2012, in return for a bailout of Ireland’s banking sector, which suffered heavily in the 2008 crash. In January, cabinet minister Pat Rabbitte broke ranks with his colleagues when complained that the Troika had “railroaded” the government into making the changes too quickly. In other words, the representatives of finance capital have insisted that the Irish government make its citizens pay for water on a timescale most convenient for them, despite practical reservations from those doing the implementing.

There has been little to no popular resistance to Irish austerity over the last few years, despite the weighty burden imposed on the working class. This mini uprising hopefully indicates that there could be more to come. Certainly, the fact that people are risking life and limb over a charge which Enda Kenny has claimed will be about €240 (£200) per year shows that this attack is very much the straw which broke the camel’s back.

Protest Blockade Wins Temporary Reprieve For Irish Psychiatric Beds

A crowd of 150 stopped police from taking beds away. Photo: Gerry Stronge

A blockade outside the psychiatric unit of St Brigid’s Hospital, Ballinasloe in County Galway, seems to have won a temporary reprieve for five beds which the Irish government wanted removed as part of ‘care in the community’-branded cuts. This encouraging display of direct action by hundreds of community members and service users mirrors ideas I expressed in my recent piece on ‘How We Can Beat The Cuts‘, part of my series on building a new working class movement.

There was a large demonstration in the town last September, where union leaders joined locals in condemning the closure of the twenty-two acute psychiatric admission beds at the hospital. At the time, Noel Giblin of the Psychiatric Nurses Association told the crowd that:

“The huge turn-out at today’s protest reflects the deep anger in the community at the loss of these beds  and people across Roscommon and Galway are clearly not going to stand by and see the mental health services in the region being dismantled in this way.”

Far from the usual hyperbolic rhetoric, his words could not have been more prophetic. As the Galway Advertiser reports:

“On January 17 this year the HSE [Health Service Executive] succeeded in taking away five psychiatric beds, however a further attempt to take five more was thwarted on Tuesday night. The determination of campaigners in Ballinasloe was clearly proven when up to 200 people took just 15 minutes to mobilise and gather at the gates of St Brigid’s at 6pm to stop a private removal company from taking the beds.
 
“According to [campaigner] Mr Carr 600 people signed up to a text alert system following a public meeting at Gullane’s Hotel on Sunday. When word got out about the attempt by the HSE to take a further five beds mass texts were sent out and campaigners arrived to hold a peaceful protest. “The vans could leave but the beds could not,” said Mr Carr, who explained there are concerns over the falling standard of care in the community.”

On Wednesday, a group of the activists took their cause to the Irish Parliament, where they called for a “full independent review” of psychiatric unit closures in Ballinasloe, plus three others in the country. But mental health minister Kathleen Lynch cynically described the cuts as something which “would liberate the service user”. The Fine Gael/Labour Party government defeated an anti-closure motion, which had been put forward by the Fianna Fáil-led opposition. But according to the East Galway Mental Health Action Group, who are co-ordinating the resistance, “The fight goes on…We WILL get our independent review..”

At the time of writing, the five beds seem to remain in place, as do those committed to defending them. Despite massive cuts, first under Fianna Fáil/Greens and now under Fine Gael/Labour, there has been little active resistance to austerity in Ireland so far. This is one to follow.

Oppose the North West Infidels in Liverpool – 3rd November

The following is a repost from the Liverpool Antifascists blog:

On Saturday 3rd November the North West Infidels, a fascist street gang connected to the National Front, is holding a demonstration in Liverpool. Liverpool Antifascists is calling on all anti-fascists andanti-racists to join us in opposing them.
The pretext for the demonstration is Mayor Joe Anderson allowing “pro-IRA” marches in the city. In reality, the NWI are using “IRA” as a dog whistle call for anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sectarian bigotry in the absence of easy targets for anti-Muslim abuse.
This only underlines that fascists will use any pretext they can to promote divisions in the working class. The same people have previously attacked not only Irish community marches but demonstrations by refugees, trade union processions and even the picket lines of striking workers.
The threat of fascism is the threat of organised violence against our class. It must be confronted wherever it rears its head. Join us at the town hall from half six and show these fascists that there are people prepared to stand up to them.Saturday 3rd November, from 6.30pm, Liverpool Town Hall. Bring flags and banners.No pasarán!

RSVP on Facebook (attendance list hidden) here.

Donal MacIntyre Plays Into Fascist Hands Over Liverpool March

Photo used with permission from Liverpool photographer David J Colbran

Almost all activists know what it’s like to go on demonstrations, then read the corporate press coverage later on or the next day and wonder if the journalist was really at the same event, or simply made up their ‘report’ based on a few minutes searching Google. And looking at the scant column inches devoted to the ructions between Irish republicans and anti-fascists on the one side and assorted fascists on the other in Liverpool last Saturday, none of the articles particularly capture the full background, depth and nuance of what happened. For that, I would turn to Phil Dickens’ excellent report on LibCom, as well as the piece on the Liverpool Antifascists blog.

But while the articles in the Liverpool Echo, Irish Times and Morning Star all had their limitations, Donal MacIntyre’s work in the Irish Sunday World – a paper described to me by one veteran Irish activist as making “the British Daily Star look like The Guardian” – belongs in a category of its own. Coming from a man routinely dubbed a “hard-hitting investigative journalist”, it displays piss poor investigative powers, little to no journalistic skill, and is “hard-hitting” only in the sense that its fast and loose relationship with the truth adds some ‘official’ punch to fascist lies. It is therefore important that his errors are corrected, before an already dangerous situation gets any worse. First, some context. As Liverpool Antifascists described in their national callout ten days ago:

“Fascists from North West Infidels, Combined Ex-Forces and Casuals United are already talking big about stopping the Flute Band from marching – and are trying to pin the “IRA” label on them, even though the band have nothing in common with the long officially disarmed paramilitary group.”

The march was organised by the James Larkin Society, a group which celebrates the legacy of the Liverpool-born Irish trade union organiser. The flute band was the Liverpool Irish Patriot Republican flute band, who split with the James Larkin Republican Flute Band over political differences. While these arguments are not my primary concern, the Irish Patriots are on record as supporting the “peaceful reunification of Ireland”.

Glorying under the highly questionable – though to be fair, apparently sub-editor chosen – headline of “Paddy Whackery”, MacIntyre’s article ignores all these subtleties, instead allowing a member of Combined Ex-Forces to claim that: “This isn’t a union march, it’s an IRA march and we don’t want the IRA on our streets.”

MacIntyre was there on Saturday – I saw him – so I know he heard the chants of “IRA scum off our streets” and screams of “child killers” (a particular reference to the Warrington bombings of 1993). But far from challenging this with anything like the facts, MacIntyre merely parrots pure fascist propaganda with his paraphrasing:

“The Combined X-Forces [sic] organisation, which had a large aggressive presence on the streets, accused the marchers of harbouring members of the Real IRA and the 32 County Sovereignty committee [sic], claiming that they were not anti-Irish but anti-Real IRA”.

And further: “[…] he objected to the James Larkin Society band [sic] which he said appeared at Sinn Féin marches.” That last sentence is perhaps (hopefully?) the worst MacIntyre will ever write. To unpack it, we have to realise that there is no “James Larkin Society band”, because MacIntyre has – like the fascists – conflated the James Larkin Society with the Irish Patriots, the source of the original – and no doubt deliberate – confusion. But maybe even more unforgivably still, in an Irish newspaper, he implicitly allows the fascist to link the Sinn Féin party now gladhanding the British monarch with some kind of ongoing insurrectionist threat!

The absurdity would possibly be comical, if it weren’t so damaging, not least because he gave anti-fascists all of two sentences! And I quote:

“These activists are protesting against the Irish and against immigrants,” Paul Jenkins, of ‘United Against Fascism’ [sic], told the Sunday World. He claimed that the far-right groups would not stop the James Larkin Society and union-organised annual march.”

Well with the benefit of the hindsight with which MacIntyre wrote his article, ‘they won’t stop the march’ is more than a claim; it is a fact. But leaving that aside, the author leaves no space for any thoroughgoing anti-fascist perspective.

And in the propaganda war against the kind of resurgent fascism which plagued Liverpool 8 two days ago, a bit of perspective is exactly what’s needed. The fascist leaders know they could never draw out mass support if they revealed their true intention – the utter crushing of the working class – so they use a mixture of outright lies, emotive slander and distortion to stigmatise different sections of our class. They divide so that they can conquer.

On Saturday the fascists came for “the Irish”. Tomorrow they will come for those they call “the Islamics”. Next week…who knows? Your workplace? By allowing the fascists a generous platform, Donal MacIntyre has played right into their hands.

Antifascist Solidarity Needed in Liverpool on Saturday 21st July!

As Larkin himself urged in his time, “Let us rise!”

The following is a repost from the Liverpool Antifascists blog:

At 13:00 on Saturday, 21st July, Liverpool Antifascists will be gathering at Combermere Street in the Toxteth area of the city. We then plan to march to the city centre, for a rally themed around ‘working class unity against racism and fascism’. Liverpool Antifascists would like to ask you to attend, or spread the word about the event if this is not possible. This will be a vital day for Liverpool activism, and even the city in general.
To understand why, it’s important to look at the background to this demonstration. In February, a gang of around two hundred fascists mobilised in the city centre, running amok, and forcing the Irish Republican Flute Band off the streets, before going on to hassle Occupy supporters on an anti-police brutality protest. This was a serious defeat for Liverpool activists, and it is vital that this is acknowledged, so that we can stop it happening again in the future.
The same Irish Republican Flute Band has organised next Saturday’s event, and Combermere Street has been chosen because the great Irish working class organiser James Larkin was born there in 1876. Fascists from North West Infidels, Combined Ex-Forces and Casuals United are already talking big about stopping the Flute Band from marching – and are trying to pin the “IRA” label on them, even though the band have nothing in common with the long officially disarmed paramilitary group.
If the fascists succeed in stopping the anti-fascist march and rally on the 21st, it will be an even bigger victory for them than February was. Their tails will be up, and they will feel confident enough to step up street attacks on activists, which have been at a low but persistent level for almost a year now. Just over a week ago, they violently attacked people on their way to an antifascist gig in the town centre, including a musician with no other link to anti-fascism.
But if enough people from Liverpool and around the country mobilise, our sheer weight of numbers will deter them, and send them back home with their tails between their legs. This applies double since the fascists are making such a public deal of the event, and posting photos of Warrington bomb victims in an attempt to slander the Irish Republicans’ name.
In the words of James Larkin himself, “Those who want to divide the workers have resorted to the foulest methods.” The fascists are the result of this, but for all our sakes, they cannot be allowed to succeed.
NO PASARAN!

Lessons To Be Learned From Vita Cortex Occupation Victory

Cheers! But tough times lie ahead for the sacked workers…

Jubilant ex-Vita Cortex foam packers finally left their factory last Thursday, bringing their marathon five month workplace occupation to an end. The occupiers declared victory when their former employer – entrepreneur Jack Ronan – finally coughed up an undisclosed sum as compensation for the redundancy he had announced before Christmas.

A fortnight ago, I reposted a celebratory excerpt from the campaign’s blog, which lauded the new “Larkins and Connollys” amongst the ex-colleagues – now comrades – and their supporters both in the local community and throughout Ireland.

It is absolutely right that we should toast the Vita Cortex occupiers. Their relentless determination to succeed has won them a significant amount of money, precisely because they took a large measure of control over their own struggle on a non-hierarchical basis, and showed a willingness to take direct action. There can be no doubt that they wouldn’t have got a penny had they simply vacated the factory, lobbied MPs, and held a rally here and there. Instead, they took control of one of Ronan’s resources, and refused to cash in that bargaining chip until they extracted a ransom from the capitalist.

However, once the immediacy of the victory has worn off, the group will nevertheless have to confront a bleak future. Ronan is estimated to have paid each worker just three weeks of pay for every year in which he has extracted profit from their labour. Those with the longest service record have won more than a year’s pay, but it is they who will face the hardest task finding work in a shrinking Irish economy.

According to the World Socialist Website, the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) brokered the deal precisely at the point “when discussions were taking place within the occupation about the need to broaden and expand the protest”. This would have caused great alarm within the SIPTU bureaucracy, which has worked hand-in-glove with the government and employers to impose drastic cuts in Ireland over the past few years. When it came, the deal was well short of the occupation’s original demands, but it was successful because SIPTU had used their small influence to isolate and wear down the occupiers over the last few months:

“SIPTU’s push to wind up the dispute was in keeping with its role from day one. Union officials combined rhetorical support with seeking at every point to isolate the struggle. When he visited the Cork factory during the first week of the occupation, SIPTU head Jack O’Connor claimed that he would mobilise workers nationally in defence of the laid-off Vita Cortex staff in the new year. But no action was ever taken, or even proposed, by the union. Instead, they directed the workers to focus their efforts on fruitless protests at the local offices of IBEC, the Irish employers’ organisation, as well as protest stunts at the home of Vita Cortex directors. The stated aim of this campaign was to exert moral pressure on the owner, Jack Ronan, to settle the dispute.”

The story of Vita Cortex should be spread far and wide. An understanding of the occupation’s strengths and weaknesses is vitally important for the planning and execution of future disputes in the UK, Ireland, and around the world.