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Belfast airport workers hospitalised

category antrim | worker & community struggles and protests | feature author Thursday April 10, 2008 08:03author by sp Report this post to the editors

featured image
Gordon McNeill taken to Belfast City Hospital

Hunger Strike Update- Gordon McNeill Taken to City Hospital

Hunger striker Gordon McNeill has been rushed to City Hospital for treatment. An ambulance was called to the scene at Transport House due to a deterioration in his condition. Gordon is on his fourth day without food and his second day without water. Also on hunger strike are Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer. The former airport shop stewards have taken the action to demand talks with the leadership of Unite/TGWU, who have refused to meet with the workers.

For more information, contact Chris Bowyer on 07764850945, Madan Gupta on 07810290938 or Gary Mulcahy on 07743282321.

Doctors are warning that serious kidney damage has probably occured to both Madan Gupta and Gordon McNeill.

Gordon McNeill has been released from hospital and has now rejoined the hunger-strike protest outside Transport House.

Related Link: http://www.tgwu.org.uk/Templates/RegionInternal.asp?NodeID=42533

transport_house_april_9_2008_004.jpg

author by Tompublication date Wed Apr 09, 2008 18:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

URGENT! Please contact your local UNITE rep and official to send protests against Jimmy Kelly and Tony Woodley's refusal to support these workers.

author by Supporterpublication date Wed Apr 09, 2008 18:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Urgently Send Solidarity Messages. Get onto UNITE reps (T&G & Amicus) and put them under Pressure. Isn't Jimmy Kelly a member of the SWP? Why doesn't he Support these Workers?

author by upublication date Wed Apr 09, 2008 20:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Both Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta have been rushed to Belfast City Hospital in a critical condition.

This is the second time today that Mr McNeill has been hospitalised. Quickly after returning to Transport House, Mr McNeill took ill and was joined by 72 year-old diabetic Madan Gupta back to Belfast City Hospital. Doctors earlier today warned that both McNeill and Gupta are likely to have suffered irreversible kidney damage as a result of their refusal to eat and drink. UNITE still refuse to meet with the workers who have been fighting for over 6 years for justice.

author by fpublication date Wed Apr 09, 2008 20:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

‘Remember the way the TGWU betrayed Liverpool's dockers? I bet you thought no union could ever sink as low. I did too. We were wrong. The way in which Unite has treated the Belfast Airport workers is a disgrace. Unite's leaders should hang their heads in shame.’

Jimmy McGovern

author by Branch Officer (Personal Capacity) - NIPSA 517publication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 09:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Fraternal greetings to one and all of the Airport Workers in struggle with Unite decision taking members of staff!
Always thought when you fight in a union, that the fights would be against Management and Government, never thought that the union would be on their side at times!!
See these rotten Bureaucrats who have their tongues in the rears of Management and Government, they should get the hell out of the movement, because their shameful dirty dealings are destroying workers.

Maggie Thatcher looks like a saint in comparison to some of the dirty rotten right wing scoundrels in norn iron trade unions today.

Not hard to see how and why Stephan Cross Solicitors are making a fortune across the shuck, the rotten dirty deals are catching up on Yes-ison, Good Management Boys, and dis-Unite-y!

Related Link: http://www.branch517nipsa.co.uk/
author by Stephen Boyd - Socialist Partypublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Industrial Relations News has reported that Jimmy Kelly will be promoted to Assistant General Secretary of UNITE in 2009. It is rumoured that his wage will be £85,000 or €105,000 a year!
Maybe this explains why Jimmy Kelly is standing by Tony Woodley and refusing to even meet the sacked airport workers.
The IRN also quotes an explanation of why Jimmy Kelly now supports "social partnership". As recently as last week the SWP posted an article on their website from their long standing member Jimmy Kelly on the Lisbon Treaty.

In an article in the British Socialist Worker, 6 July 2002, Issue 1807, entitled - Belfast Airport strike, Unity now taking off, the SWP said: “They [sacked airport workers] are now involved in a crucial battle to win their jobs back, and every trade unionist in Britain and Ireland should get behind them.”
We would ask the SWP do they still believe that every trade unionist in Britain and Ireland should support the sacked airport workers? And if the answer is yes, then what is your party doing to pressurise SWP member Jimmy Kelly into supporting these workers!

In an article written by Eamonn McCann in the Belfast Telegraph on 10 May 2007 entitled What would Larkin say?, McCann states in relation to the sacked airport workers and in particular Gordon McNeill: -
“A bitter, complex battle followed - the union's Northern Ireland operation was itself in chaos at the time - during which the 24 won a court ruling that their strike had complied with both union rule and the law of the land. But the T&G remained adamant in refusing to back them. The workers currently have an unfair dismissal case pending, alleging discrimination "on grounds of political opinion because of their trade union opinion and socialist beliefs". Larkinism, it would once have been called.”

Eamonn McCann finished his article by saying:-
“Many union officials privately agree that the workers involved in the cases mentioned here have good ground for discontent. As they stand in light filtered through the image of Jim Larkin this evening, they might ponder whether the wider interests of trade unionism today would not be best served by their taking up the cudgels tomorrow morning on behalf of Brothers Rafferty, McNeill and Nicholl.”
Well Eamonn are you going to take up the cudgel now in support of Gordon, Madan and Chris when they need your support the most? What are you going to do to support the airport workers now? Have you phoned your comrade Jimmy Kelly and asked him is he going to change his mind and support those who are continuing Jim Larkin’s struggle?

It is a disgrace that the SWP are silent on what is happening outside Transport House. What has changed? Why are the SWP, and Eamonn McCann now silent on the struggle and the plight of the sacked airport workers who have been driven to go on hunger strike by the intransigence of the UNITE leadership. Is it simply because the central union official in this dispute is one of their members? Or is this another reflection of the political shift to the right of the Socialist Workers Party.

author by IWU memberpublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 11:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I’m absolutely seething with anger reading the suffering of these trade union activists, it’s incredible that they do this simply to have an audience with their own leadership, the disgusting behaviour of these bureaucratic bastards is why I left SIPTU were I was a long standing member, the leadership in these unions have more in common with the employers as they receive the same rate of pay, they cannot and do not relate with the working class in any way, shape or form. Nothing but agents of the state.
I salute the protesters bravery but am obviously highly concerned for their health and the fact that they had to resort to such dangerous methods.
I wish them a speedy victory and a speedy recovery.
Hopefully one day we the workers will retake control of our unions and use them the proper way they are supposed to be used.

author by Scepticpublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This seems to be a squall in a very small teacup indeed. If people are damaging their health going on hunger strike it shows the folly of going on such in the first place and the urgency of desisting. Why were these people sacked? It is not clear. There are employment tribunals and like for dealing with grievances.

What would Larkin do? Who on earth knows or is entitled to invoke his name? The dead are often best left dead - we have too much necro-politics in Ireland - invoking the dead, starving oneself to death, killing and being killed, graveyard ceremonies, commemorations and all the rest all leading to a backward looking outlook. In any case Big Jim was no stranger to controversy and union rivalry himself. He was a difficult man who was anything but a unifying influence in the union movement in his own time.

author by f - Socialist Partypublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

5 September 2007
Northern Ireland
Last week, twenty two airport security workers at Belfast International airport, who were sacked in 2002 for going on strike, won a landmark Industrial Tribunal case against their employer, security company ICTS. Most significantly, the four shop stewards, two of them Socialist Party members, have won their case that they were sacked because of their ‘trade union opinions and socialist political beliefs."

Belfast International Airport workers win ground-breaking court victory
But struggle for justice continues

Peter Hadden, Socialist Party, Belfast
Five years ago – on 14 May 2002 - forty four low paid security workers went on strike at Belfast International airport. They were demanding that their employer, international security firm, ICTS, raise their wages to £6 an hour to give them parity with airport porters.

There were other grievances too – there was no shift allowance, no overtime pay, and no sickness scheme. Less than a year after 9/11, ICTS, originally set up by individuals with a background in the Israeli security services, clearly wanted to provide security in Belfast airport on the cheap.

The strike followed months of fruitless negotiations. Eventually the workers, 140 in total, insisted on their union, the T&GWU (Transport and General Workers’ Union), calling a strike ballot. 97% of the workers voted ‘yes’ to industrial action.

ICTS were notified of a series of strike days but the earlier days were suspended to allow for negotiation. When it became clear that ICTS were not going to come up with a decent offer the workers decided to go ahead with the action on 14 May. Just hours before the strike was due to begin, they received an assurance from their union official, Joe McCusker, that the action was official and the union was fully backing them.

The forty four workers on the first security shift of the day were not long on the picket lines before the shop stewards began to get an uneasy sense that all was not quite right. ICTS managers had come out to tell them that the strike was illegal and to issue threats. Meanwhile, Joe McCusker was nowhere to be found. Calls to the T&GWU office and to his mobile went unanswered and messages were not returned.

As the hours went by, the shop stewards became increasingly concerned and decided to end the strike after the first shift. Meanwhile, they would try and get clarification of their position from the union. They kept trying – without success – to contact Joe McCusker.

At 3.30pm the next day a secret meeting took place in a pub close to the airport. Present were two senior directors of ICTS along with the elusive Joe McCusker. At the meeting McCusker gave ICTS copies of letters he was about to send to the shop stewards on behalf of the union repudiating the strike. The decision to repudiate the action had been agreed by the then general secretary of the union Bill (now Sir Bill) Morris.

These letters were the green light ICTS needed. They immediately sacked twenty four workers (one was soon reinstated) among them three who, because they were on a different shift, had not taken part in the strike.

Since then the workers, and, in particular, the three T&GWU shop stewards, Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer, have fought a bitter and protracted battle seeking justice; justice from ICTS and justice from the T&GWU.

Pickets, protests and hunger strikes

This has involved pickets, protests and demonstrations at the airport as well as protests at the union offices both in Belfast and in London. The three shop stewards have twice gone on hunger strike in the foyer of Transport House in Belfast and, this month, have had to threaten another hunger strike in Transport House in London in order to get the union to stop ignoring them and take their demands seriously.
In the course of all this Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer have become three of the best known and, more importantly, most respected, trade unionists in Northern Ireland. Two of them have also drawn political conclusions from what has happened to them and have joined the Socialist Party.

One year after the strike, Tony Woodley, who had replaced Bill Morris as T&GWU general secretary, intervened and negotiated a deal with ICTS. This involved a paltry payout to the shop stewards and workers. After strike pay they had received was deducted – which the union were insisting upon – Gordon McNeill would have been left with about £4000 and the rest of the workers getting much less. Some would have received nothing.

There was an agreement that six workers would be reinstated but also a stipulation clearly laid down by ICTS that the shop stewards would never work at the airport again.

Tony Woodley personally phoned Gordon McNeill and urged him to accept this as "a dammed good deal" and the best they would get. He told him that because the strike was illegal they had no chance of winning a legal case, not even an unfair dismissal case, against the company.

The shop stewards put this offer to the sacked workers who unanimously rejected it. From this point on the union, by and large, abandoned the sacked workers and washed their hands of the issue.

It was around this time things took a more sinister turn. The shop stewards received death threats against themselves and against their families. The threats came by letter and, more ominously, at gunpoint, when two of them were bundled into a van and told to "back off or else".

The shop stewards refused to be intimidated and continued their fight against ICTS and their struggle for an explanation from the T&GWU as to why they had repudiated the strike. They decided to carry on with a legal case against ICTS but, without backing from the union, they had to fund this on their own.

ICTS deliberately dragged out the case, probably trying to bump up the costs to force an out of court settlement. Finally, after five years, the workers, this August, received the Industrial Tribunal decision.

Their claim was that the bulk of the workers were unfairly dismissed. But since there is a low ceiling on the amount that a Tribunal can pay out for unfair dismissal, the four shop stewards (the three T&GWU stewards and a fourth from the GMB) took a different case. They claimed that their sacking was political discrimination on grounds of their trade union opinion and socialist political beliefs.

Ground breaking judgement
In a ground breaking judgement the Tribunal found in their favour. In total, the twenty two workers who took the action were awarded £750,000 in compensation. The workers rightly hailed this as a significant victory for all trade unionists.

Up to now, employers could sack "obstructive" shop stewards and then shrug their shoulders at the paltry compensation paid out after unfair dismissal cases as "cheap at the price." The new ruling allows any worker who is victimised because of their role as a trade unionist to take a claim of political discrimination rather than an unfair dismissal case and at least have the possibility of more substantial compensation.

This is the second important legal victory these workers have secured. In order to get the Tribunal to rule on their case, the workers first on all had to fight a battle in the High Court and ultimately in the Court of Appeal to establish whether or not their strike was legal.

At issue was whether, under the current anti trade union laws, a strike that has been suspended can be reinstated without notice to the employers. These Thatcherite laws have been designed to force workers to jump through hoops before they can legally strike. Following a successful ballot workers have to give seven days before starting action.

Where a strike has been suspended it is currently the practice of all trade unions to cover themselves by again giving seven days notice before reinstating action. In the case of the 14 May airport strike the employers disputed how much notice had been given but this became irrelevant when the Court found that there was no legal obligation on the workers to give any notice, never mind seven days notice, of the reinstatement of a suspended strike on any already nominated strike day.

This decision potentially puts a huge hole in the Thatcherite anti-union laws which the unions can exploit – if they want. Under this ruling a union could, for example, ballot for discontinuous strike action, nominate every other day for a year as a strike day, suspend the action and then reinstate it at will with no further notice to the employers.

This is a loophole in the legislation which the airport workers have been able to expose and which confounds the legal opinion that the trade unions have been acting upon for years. Of course, it is only a loophole and, after a time, if the unions do use it to strengthen their hand, the government will most likely bend the knee to the employers and pass legislation to close it.

Huge legal bills
During the years of campaigning the shop stewards have repeatedly stressed that the best way for workers to get justice is not through the courts but by directly taking on the employers through industrial action. Their experience bears this out.

True, they have won an important victory and, at first glance, the £750,000 pay-out looks impressive. On closer examination the settlement is a lot less generous than it may seem. This award is shared among the twenty two workers who took the case, with the biggest payouts going to the shop stewards because theirs was a discrimination case.

But Industrial Tribunals do not award costs and the workers now have a legal bill of around £200,000. Much of the burden of raising this money has fallen on the shop stewards. They have had to re-mortgage their homes – they are now facing re-possession – and take out crippling loans, some from loan sharks – to pay the first instalments of this bill. Two of them are unemployed and clearly blacklisted and much of the money they have got could well be recouped by the state through loss of benefits.

And, if ICTS decides to appeal the decision, this would mean another costly legal action. Should this happen, the shop stewards simply do not have any collateral left to raise the money they would need to finance it. The decision could potentially be overturned simply because they have no means to defend it. ‘Justice’, such as it exists in the capitalist courts, is a commodity only available to those who can afford it!

The Industrial Tribunal decision was widely reported in the press and on radio and
TV as a victory for the workers. At a press conference facilitated by the Socialist Party, Gordon McNeill said it was "a good day for trade unionism" and called on workers to join and get active in the unions.

He also pointed out that, despite the £750,000 award, ICTS had so far got off relatively unscathed. Like most employers, they have insurance against such claims. "Our issue with ICTS", said Gordon, "is not resolved. The directors of this company were found to have lied their way through the Tribunal. Yet these people are in charge of the security of every passenger who flies out of Belfast International airport. We are now seeking a meeting with First Minister, Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, to demand that the Assembly remove ICTS from the airport and bring airport security back into the public sector."

But the anger of the shop stewards was also directed at the leadership of the union – and understandably so. The Tribunal hearings were wound up at the start of June. As soon as they were over the shop stewards wrote a very conciliatory letter to Tony Woodley and to all the senior T&GWU officials in Ireland asking for without prejudice discussions to resolve their differences so that, in the event that they won their case, they could jointly celebrate this victory and use it strengthen the union. They did not get so much as an acknowledgement, let alone a reply. So, at the press conference, they announced that they would be travelling to Transport House in London to begin a hunger strike.

Union democracy
They are demanding that the union set up an inquiry, made up of people acceptable to the shop stewards, into the union leadership’s handling of the dispute in 2002 and since. They are also asking that the union meet their legal bill and give a commitment to meet future legal expenses should ICTS appeal the decision.

On top of this, they want their campaigning expenditure and the debts they have incurred as a result of this five year battle to be met.

In the event, when they got to London, they did not have to go on hunger strike because Tony Woodley, alongside the senior Irish regional officials, agreed to meet them. During the lengthy negotiations Tony Woodley gave them personal assurances that he would do his best to come up with a resolution to the issue. The shop stewards were not entirely convinced, especially as he would not put anything down on paper, but decided that they would give the union leadership until the next meeting of the T&GWU Executive, in mid-September, to deliver on their word.

Since that meeting the shop stewards have had discussions with the senior officials of the union in Ireland and have come away with the clear impression that the union leadership is trying to backtrack on the assurances that were given in London. They feel they may have no option but to resume their public protests demanding justice from the union.

Unless and until the union takes decisive steps to make up for their betrayal of these workers, the abiding memory that will linger of this dispute will be of that shady encounter in a pub near the airport where T&GWU official, Joe McCusker, handed ICTS directors the ammunition they needed to sack his members.

The case for union officials to be elected, not appointed, and for their pay to be linked to wages of those they represent, not the inflated salaries they currently enjoy, could not be clearer.

Belfast airport workers discriminated against "for their political opinions"
Tribunal produces scathing conclusions against airport employers

Bill Mullins, Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales) Industrial Organiser, looks at the conclusions of the Fair Employment Tribunal:
Four years ago, I interviewed Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer when they visited London in 2003. They told the Socialist that their employer, ICTS, the security company in Belfast International Airport, had selected them and others for the sack after they took legal strike action. This affected 22 workers, in total.

As well as campaigning against their sacking, they were also demanding an investigation into the role of their full-time TGWU official, who they accused of collaborating with the bosses in the sackings.

Now, in a complete vindication of their case, the tribunal has found not only were they unfairly sacked by ICTS but the shop stewards had been sacked because they were stewards.

This is a victory over a vicious employer and a condemnation of the union. The TGWU leadership abandoned them, telling them they did not have a chance if they went to the tribunal. They said they should accept a miserly offer of £4,000 from ICTS, with no chance of getting their jobs back. When they refused it, the union declared they were on their own.

This meant that the shop stewards had to bear the full legal costs of £200,000 and rising.

The tribunal was also pretty clear in its written findings that the TGWU official at the time was guilty of collaborating with the bosses in the sackings.

The stewards had to overcome all obstacles, despite ill health and the threatened loss of their homes. Two of them have joined the Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) in recognition that this was the only party in Ireland that stood with them, through thick and thin.

Since the tribunal victory the union, under threat of hunger strike from the stewards, has verbally agreed to cover their legal costs and any future costs if ICTS appeal against the tribunal decision.

Fascinating reading
The fair employment tribunal findings, some 92 pages of it, make fascinating reading. It ruled that the 22 workers were discriminated against and therefore unfairly sacked. But it also found that the shop stewards were discriminated against "for their political opinions".

With the history of Northern Ireland as a back drop, the tribunal and an appeal court have declared that "political opinion includes supporting workers’ rights to belong to a trade union".

It decided that they had been sacked because the boss at the time, Mr Finnegan (now boss of Gatwick airport security) had "made extremely disparaging remarks… about trade unions and… shop stewards".

This finding meant that there was no limit to the damages awarded against the company for sacking the shop stewards and one of them, in fact, has been awarded £131,000.

Another important ruling made by the tribunal included the right of the workers to reinstate strike action without having to give notice to the employer.

This arose because the date for their second strike action, 14 May 2002, was suspended then reinstated by the shop stewards after legal advice from the union’s own lawyers.

Union official’s actions "ineffective"
The tribunal made it pretty clear that the actions of the full-time union official, Mr McCusker, in issuing a letter of repudiation had no legal basis and, in fact, was "ineffective".

The tribunal refers to: "Mr McCusker meeting Mr Lewis and Ms Thorpe (directors of ICTS) in a public house…, when he provided them with copies of the letters he was proposing to send to the stewards" repudiating the strike.

It was this action that gave the green light to the bosses for the sacking of the 22 workers. The tribunal even speculates whether it was the bosses who thought up the repudiation letter or whether it was McCusker who suggested it to them.

The tribunal is scathing in its language about the employers. It says for example that Finnegan "was not truthful in his evidence" that he "gave a completely self-serving account" when he was cross examined.

It comments that the company’s disciplinary and appeals procedure was "a total sham" on more than one occasion.

The tribunal seems to have fun commenting on the conflicting statements of the employers about how they selected the workers to be sacked. They concluded that an unofficial stoppage on 30 March 2002 "was used simply as a smokescreen to dismiss them".

And as a further kick in the bosses’ 'proverbials', the tribunal says they "had difficulty in remembering anything other than what they wanted to remember".

When the Human Resources (HR) director, Ms Thorpe, was cross-examined the tribunal comments "there were three different versions of how she had conducted the "random selection".

First "she had used a pin with her eyes closed" then later she said "she had used a needle with her eyes open" then "Ms Thorpe said she cut up the names and placed them in a box".

The shop stewards are now waiting to see if the TGWU makes good their promise to pay their full legal and other costs. Assurances were given but, despite discussions with the senior regional officials since the workers returned to Belfast, nothing concrete has yet been delivered.

As a gesture of conciliation from the shop stewards, the TGWU was asked, if in the event of a victory, it would like to line up with the workers and say that this was a victory for the union as well as the workers. But the union did not even acknowledge the correspondence from the shop stewards, let alone reply.

There are a lot of lessons from this case but without, in particular, the shop stewards in determination and readiness to sacrifice, nothing could have been achieved.

Related Link: http://socialistpartyni.net
author by Archivistpublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Eugene McGlone, sacked Irish T&G official told Socialist Appeal that he had met some of the sacked workers and that "it is disgraceful that nothing has been done about this. Not just words of support but action is needed. The union must stand up for its members, for workers and their families. The campaign for our reinstatement [the campaign to reinstate Mick O'Reilly and Eugene McGlone] gives its 100 percent backing to the sacked airport workers and would appeal to trade unionists everywhere to offer their support."

author by readerpublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 13:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Personalised insults to a partcular member of union management, and similar mean spirited attacks on the tiiny political party he is a member of, do nothing to help this case.

Reading the coverage on indymedia makes this dispute appear to be an attack on one marginal political group by another. In the context of people risking their health this seems squalid and nasty, and takes away from the legitimacy of the cause these men are protesting about.

Concentrate on the issues, rather than the personalities or political affiliations of those concerned.

author by fpublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 13:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta were released from Belfast City Hospital this morning and have rejoined their protest outside Transport House in Belfast.

Chris Bowyer, Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta are continuing their hunger-strike against the advice of doctors at Belfast City Hospital who have warned them that they face possible death within 24 hours if they do not recommence eating.

Gordon McNeill, 38, who suffers from asthma and has a serious heart condition has been told that he is entering the first stages of renal failure. When he was taken to hospital his blood sugars were dangerously low. He is in a high state of ketosis and is at serious risk of a heart attack. In 2007, Gordon McNeill was admitted to hospital with an irregular heartbeat.

Madan Gupta, 72, a diabetic who has not taken medication since Monday morning has been told his potassium levels are dangerously high and has also been told he is entering the first stages of renal failure. Doctors have warned because of his diabetis his health is at very serious risk.

The Unite union continues to refuse to talk to the workers.

For more comments contact Gordon McNeill on 07934632366 or Dr. Ciaran Mulholland on 07703736713.

author by normal blokepublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 14:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Set up a new union? That's what Larkin would have done.

author by Updaterpublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 15:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Continuing drop seen in union membership

New figures show that trade union membership is continuing to fall, and union members now account for just over 30% of employees.

The Central Statistics Office said 31.5% of workers were members of a union in the second quarter of 2007, continuing a downward trend which began in 2003.

34.6% of full-time workers claimed union membership, but only 19% of part-time employees were union members.

The CSO figures show that the highest level of union membership, 79%, was in the 'public administration and defence' category. This compares with rates of 8% in 'hotels and restaurants' and 'agriculture, forestry and fishing'.

The health and construction sectors showed the biggest falls over the last couple of years.

author by concernedpublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 17:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Are the socialist party suggesting that Jimmy Kelly has personally gained from this- this is the inference with the "laughing all the way to the bank" remark above?

This is obviously a very serious accusation.

As someone above said this dispute has become quite serious but is becoming clear that it is being used by one micro party to bash another micro party and make personalised slurs against individuals. If this is the case, which it appears to be then its shameful on the part of the socialist party.

author by RSpublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 17:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Then why is Kelly taking the position that he is?

And secondly, Kelly is a member of a revolutionary socialist organisation and siding with the union bureaucrats against its own members. More should be "expected" of him as a supposed revolutionary socialist. And pressure should be put on the SWP for push Kelly on this issue. So far, they have remained silent, why? It would be expected of them that they would show solidarity with workers yet they have said nothing.

author by Stephen Boyd - Socialist Partypublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 17:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Concerned, whoever you are, you most definitely have not identified what the real issue is! The real issue is the campaign of the sacked airport workers and their battle against a section of the leadership of Unite for justice. The posting above which refers to Jimmy Kelly and money was not posted by the Socialist Party, it is an anonymous posting. The anonymous poster is probably referring to Jimmy Kelly's new job as Assistant General Secretary which has a salary of £85,000 apparently.
This is not about the Socialist Party trying to score points off the SWP. Two of the three men who are on hunger strike are members of the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party has played an honorable role in supporting the sacked airport workers from the very beginning of their campaign. We are the only people who have stood by them through all of their battles. Your attempt to sideline this discussion is contemptible. We are concerned with the lives of the three workers, and in their fight for justice - not petty sectarian bickering.

author by not a swimmiepublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 18:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"This is not about the Socialist Party trying to score points off the SWP"

I'm glad to hear that. However you'll have to admit, there is a serious amount of mud slinging going here and elsewhere, which seems to be concentrating on the swp and it's action/inactions rather than the issues.

author by Gearoid O Loingsighpublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 18:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am not really sure why anyone is surprised at the position of Jimmy Kelly. It is an important issue and not just a case of mudslinging. For years the SWP and SP have promoted left bureaucrats as allies in a whole range of issues. The campaigns against social partnership always involved left bureaucrats. Indeed, Mick O Reilly was the starting point for all of the campaigns as far as these organisations were concerned and no attempt was made to go beyond the left bureaucrats. In fact there was outright hostility to it.

On this issue it is apparent if the postings are to be believed that the left bureaucrat concerned has not only gone so far up the greasy pole that there is no slipping down again but that he has betrayed his class. This does not mean that the SWP should be asked to push him on the issue. On a whole range of issues the left has argued to push bureacrats everywhere, except out of the way, and the strategy has failed. The should expel him.

However, they won't the SWP has not only promoted left bureaucrats but all the ones on the right as well such as Jack O Connor and before him Des Geraghy used to get a platform at anti-capitalist meetings organised by them or one or other front.

author by Tara - Unite (personal capacity)publication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 21:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I've just read up on this. It seems all the sacked shop stewards did was stand up for their members and fight for imporved pay and conditions. for this they were sacked by ICTS and the union official reprudiated their strike, which is absolutely disgraceful.

These men regardless of their political affiliations must be supported. If they are not supported by ordinary members in Unite and by union members and workers generally it will be a green light to employers to sack and vicitimise every union activist. Where will that leave us?!!

there has been some criticism of Jimmy Kelly. I think this is absolutely justified. He is the leader of the union in Ireland. He claims to stand for grass roots trade unionism and claims to be a socialist. If this is the case well why is he not intervening into this case and taking up the cause of these workers?!! Jimmy why wont you just do that?! Is it the case that you don't want to ruffle the feathers of some officials whose support you need for your merger manoevers with Amicus officials? If that is the case you are a disgrace and should actually be kicked out of the union.

author by Socialist Partypublication date Fri Apr 11, 2008 19:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Gordon, Madan and Chris are in hospital now recovery from their ordeal after having received a letter from the union's solicitor which commits Unite to paying their legals fees, including their forthcoming appeal and to negotiating a payment of compensation. This is an important victory.
A full explanation to follow.

author by Arti Pickle - Socialist Party & union memberspublication date Fri Apr 11, 2008 19:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Really glad to hear that union have coughed up, it is after all our pot of monies precisely for this purpose.

The last person said more info below but I couldn't see any. Please could you post it.

cheers

Hunger strikers: Proud of your long standing fight. now please get yourselves well, we need you alive. xx

author by BJL - Unite personal capacitypublication date Fri Apr 11, 2008 21:51author email lisbon67 at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

so the left attack the left in an unseemly squabble which almost gets completely out of control and this is a 'victory'?

it is, FOR THE RIGHT!

the treatment of these workers by the ATGWU was a disgrace. That was the Morris regime which sold out the Liverpool dockers. these regime was ousted from ATGWU

It appears that the new woodley/kelly regime was tardy about honouring their committments last summer. this was a mistake, even a bad one, but they didnt create the problem and this has not been made clear this week by those supporting the 3 real victims of this issue

the tactic of hunger strikes against ones own union is abominable and should be totally unacceptable to all trade unionists, that has not been made clar either and perhaps if it had the 3 involved may have ended their dispute sooner

thank god Unite have seen sense however the vilification of Woodley and Kelly this week by so called socialists has been sickening, I look forward to these self same people now turning their skillful manipulation on right wing employers

Jimmy McGovern, you are massively respected on the left in Ireland but your comments on this board are trite and simplistic and not becoming of a man of your stature

now if the trots, the other trots, the stalinists and whatever the hell else cut out the crap and UNITE against employers workers in Ireland might look forward to some REAL 'victories' in the future

sometimes I despair for what passes for the left in Ireland, north and south

author by The Simp - DisUnitepublication date Fri Apr 11, 2008 23:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have been following this tragedy and its predictable outcome since its contrived inception and am fully aware of all the TRUE facts.......
Workers get Sacked
Solicitors get Money!
Old Union wont back Workers
Solicitors get Money!
Workers win Case
Solicitors get Money!
New Union commits to support Workers
Solicitors get Money!
Misunderstanding on Commitment?
Solicitors get Money!
Hunger Strike by Workers on behalf of Solicitors
Vested Interests?
New Unions name sullied
Trade Union Movements reputation damaged
New Union reaffirms what was already agreed
Hunger Strikers get sandwich

SOLICITORS GET MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

author by che_jesus - sppublication date Sat Apr 12, 2008 12:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The leadership of unite have sullied there own names with their outrageous scabbing behaviour.
Siding with the bosses to get political rivals fired. Telling lies and slander about these workers’ in the press. Calling on the state to intervene against these workers’ in struggle.
But these workers’ have proven that there is still rank and file trade unionist willing to stand up to the bosses. Woodley and Kelly have shown that they cannot be trusted to stand with the workers’ when it matters. The rank and file of unite should remove this leadership and replace it with one that will side with the workers’ and not the bosses.
Im all for left unity, but if people are going to use that of as an excuse to blindly follow union bureaucrats who side with the bosses over the interests of workers’ then this is surely more dangerous to the future of left and the trade union movement. The trade union movements needs more people like these three brave men.
What’s the point of having a united movement, with no descent, if it’s not going to stand up to the bosses?

author by Scepticpublication date Sat Apr 12, 2008 12:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What that’s saying is that any worker in conflict with his employer or union or co workers is always right no matter what the circumstances which is a recipe for utter chaos. Besides hunger strikes are a particularly ugly form of moral blackmail which are to be robustly condemned.

author by che_jesus - sppublication date Sun Apr 13, 2008 00:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sceptic have you read the details of this dispute. Your comments bear no relation to what i said. i did not say that any group of workers' in conflict with there union, employer or co-workers' should be supported. But if workers' take strike action with a democratic mandate from the members and the union does not support them then, yes absolutely support them. furthermore if that union colludes with the bosses to have workers' fired on the basis of their political believes, then the leadership of that union needs to be removed. workers' need fighting unions to stand up to the bosses not sign deals behind their backs.

author by DennisR - SP & Unitepublication date Mon Apr 14, 2008 08:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As the lass said above:
"Hunger strikers: Proud of your long standing fight. now please get yourselves well, we need you alive. xx"

We need union members like you

The bureacrats should hang their heads in shame

author by Eoinpublication date Mon Apr 14, 2008 22:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have known Jimmy Kelly for many years, during which time he has been one of the countries most outstanding and principled trade unionist. He , and his workmates at Waterford Glass have contributed hundreds of thousands of euros to workers in struggle and strikes both here and abroad. He has always been on the side or workers in any dispute with management or officials.
Kelly did not cause this dispute and was not in his present position when the workers where betrayed by their , then,officials.He has not behaved in the manner alleged by posters on this site.

While I am unaware of what, if any, the contribution is of Stephen Boyd to the fight for workers rights in this country over the last 20 years I am aware of Jimmy Kellys'. I have come to the conclusion that Mr Boyd and his collegues at the SP have just engaged in one of the most breath taking and outrageous acts of sectarianism ever. Outstanding work even by the SPs hight standards.I wish the workers well.As someone who has fought and lost in strikes before, and also has been shafted and sold out by officials, I can understand their bitterness and anger. For them I have the utmost respect. For Boyd and those who joined the recent pickets with posters attacking Jimmy Kelly I retain a life long loathing. You have nothing to offer workers struggle here, now or at anytime in the future. I look forward to the day when the spirit shown by the Belfast strikers some years ago becomes widespread throughtout our class. When it does, management, neo liberals. and the ruling class in general will be in for a rude awakening. If Mr Boyd thinks that his poisonous plotting and planning will get a hearing then he is also in for a rude awakening.

author by Pravdapublication date Mon Apr 14, 2008 23:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Eoin your posting is "rich" in empty rhetoric and "poor" in real substantive arguments and facts. You claim, "Kelly did not cause this dispute and was not in his present position when the workers where betrayed by their , then,officials.He has not behaved in the manner alleged by posters on this site."

"Kelly did not cause this dispute" - That depends on which dispute you are referring to, if you mean the original dispute with ICTS, then you are correct. If you mean the betrayal of the workers by McCusker and then Morris, you are again correct.

However, the sacked airport workers were protesting outside Transport House because the current leaders of Unite T&G in Ireland (Jimmy Kelly) and in Britain (Tony Woodley) had on a number of occasions broken promises and commitments to support the workers in the legal struggles, and to pay them compensation for past wrongs by union officials. So Eoin you are in fact wrong - Jimmy Kelly was very much responsible for the recent betrayal of these workers.

For five days whilst three Unite members where on a hunger and thirst strike outside Transport House, Jimmy Kelly refused to meet them. He walked past these men and ignored them. He said that he wouldn't talk to the men while they remained on hunger strike. Margaret Thatcher would have been proud!

Read over the statements from the airport workers that are on Indymedia - do you think that they would share your rose tinted view of Jimmy Kelly? They had to risk their lives just so that he would listen to them or agree to negotiate with them!

Jimmy Kelly's past is irrelevant. There are plenty of trade union officials, and even politicians who at one time would have been radical and honest fighters for working class people. But people change. Judge Jimmy Kelly by how he has handled this dispute and how he is now prepared to enter partnership with the bosses if the conditions are right - judge him by where he is going, not where he came from!

author by eyes wide openpublication date Mon Apr 14, 2008 23:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As everyone on this thread except the individuals affiliated with the SP have figured out, there is no question that the airport workers have been used by the SP to advance an incredibly sectarian agenda. If two of them were members of the SP, why were they not advised by the leadership of that organisation against a hunger strike? I believe that any physical damage that they have suffered is ultimately the responsibility of the SP itself, which saw in the workers' [legitimate] cause an opportunity for a squalid sectarian maneuver. If you think Jimmy Kelly is the problem with the trade union movement in this country, you've got a pretty warped sense of reality. Point-scoring and one upmanship by maneuver is all the sp in the north seems to know. Its an old story, though this is about as low as they've gone.

author by eyes open even widerpublication date Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

you are making an assumption that the SP leadership didn't advise against a hunger strike! Clearly these men were suffering such frustration that they saw no other alternative. If they chose to go on hunger strike - what was the SP supposed to do? Turn their back on them or support them???

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Tue Apr 15, 2008 14:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well done to the sacked shopstewards. Once again they have refused to crumble in the face of hostility from the bureaucracy of their union. They fought and they won. They've been betrayed by the Unite bureaucracy (both the "right" and the "left" bureaucrats) over and over, but they have shown outstanding bravery and determination.

I note with rather less pleasure the rash of anonymous postings to these threads in recent days by people presumably affiliated with Unite bureaucracy or the SWP, attacking the workers or those who actually supported them. You would think that having disgraced themselves so thoroughly in recent days that they would have the sense to maintain a dignified silence.

author by Daniel W - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Tue Apr 15, 2008 17:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I would like to make it very clear that the Socialist Party has always categorically advised the airport workers against the tactic of hunger strike. However, when these workers, brutalised in a bitter struggle against their former employers and the bureaucrats of their union, are so desperate that they insist upon it, we backed them to the hilt. The people here casting aspersions over the role of the Socialist Party should perhaps talk to the men themselves, but that would mean leaving your comfy world of making snide comments on the internet, and come into contact with class struggle.

Well done to the three airport workers! They have more backbone, principle and determination in one of their little fingers than all the cynical cyber warriors on here put together.

author by Employees.org.uk - personal - John Robertsonpublication date Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:49author email john at employees dot org dot ukauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Unite T&G has a wonderful democratic rule book on
http://www.employees.org.uk/rules.html
According to the rules, every single member needs to go to a branch meeting once in two years and elect a local committee, everything about the union has to be known to all members and it's set-up in a way that makes it easy for local branches to leave the union if the regional office fails.

Just recently a taxi driver in London tried to use his democratic rights at the Certification Office tribunal to find out where his money was going and why the local branch wasn't elected. The case is called King v TGWU

Mr King was told that his legal right to see receipts only meant an "intermediate ledger": judges have ruled that you can't see precisely how the legal budget works in another case, and the example was a legal budget. There is no way T&G members can find out why the union says it spends nearly all it's legal budget on health and safety cases and only 66p per member per year on employment, and whether this is because they're using no-win no-fee lawyers and it's hard to make enough money for that to work on employment law. Unison have admitted in their own publicity that their personal injury legal work is funded by no-win no-fee and they might stop representing members altogether if the system changed.

Mr King was also told that a branch committee could elect themselves on a show of hands round a table - they judged on custom rather than taking the rule book as a contract. The judge ruled that if the committee donates its budget to another committee, that second committee doesn't even need to show members it's account headings or a receipt for the money or have any kind of election at all. This even applies even if the second committee is more or less the same people as the first committee and use the same name and letterhead. This was a bizarre case but donations-on-behalf seem to be built-in to trades union culture and the London region boasts 22 organisations that it donates to (on top of donations by volunteer branches, by trades councils that the union donates to and by the central office). I've been trying to find out how many of these organisations have easily checkable accounts, for example to show a receipt for money given, and the usual answer is that they don't.

More recently, Unite-T&G has had its first merged executive council elections. They did the legal minimum in sending-out postal ballots, but have an internal political party and an electoral machine that can muster enough of the 10% to keep the party in power. Executive committee members who criticise the union on issues like this are expelled from the party.

My MP has forwarded a letter to the T&G legal director asking him how his legal services are funded. She is on her second reminder. A letter was sent to him on 20th of November. He has still not replied.

The rule book is on
http://www.employees.org.uk/rules.html
The King v TGWU case is on
http://www.employees.org.uk/accounts-TGWU.html
An account of how the national executive elections work in practice is on this link
http://truckdriver.blog-city.com/the_broad_left_of_tg_a...d.htm

The only solution to this mess that I can think of is to ban donations to party central offices.
Then unions could stop being fundraising organisations and go back to being trade unions.
http://truckdriver.blog-city.com/the_broad_left_of_tg_a...d.htm

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