13 July 2009

Irish Electricians return to Work

Thousands of Irish electricians have returned to their work this morning after the Labour Court recommended that they should receive a 4.9% pay rise.

The Technical, Engineering & Electrical Union (TEEU), which represents most of the electricians, suspended its week-long strike after holding an executive meeting at their head office in Dublin yesterday.

Last Monday morning at 5.30am the strike began with TEEU pickets (photo left) being placed at hundreds of construction sites all across the country. (see my entry of July 6th)
The industrial action, which was the first major strike in Ireland in years, disrupted the work on many buildings, including landmark projects such as Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport and the new national Football and Rugby stadium on Dublin's Lansdowne Road. And - to the delight of the local Shell to Sea protest group - there were TEEU pickets also at the controversial Shell gas refinery at Bellanaboy in northern Co. Mayo.

There was strong support for the strike from almost all Irish electricians, and also a predominantly positive reaction to it from the media and the general population. Only the leaders of employers' organisations, such as former PD party president and junior minister Tom Parlon (photo right), who became the Director General of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) only weeks after he lost his seat in the Dáil (and with it his ministerial job) in the 2007 general election, were strongly opposed to the electricians' strike. Tom Parlon used the most offensive language of all the industry leaders, calling the TEEU "a bunch of lunatics" in an interview with Pat Kenny on RTÉ Radio 1.

Now that the Labour Court has spoken, the dispute should be settled. But the employers, whose attempt to con the electricians out of an agreed deal and impose a 10% pay cut on top of it, have not yet responded to the Labour Court recommendation. It will be their decision if normality is to return to the industry, or if there will be more industrial action.

The TEEU has warned that it will consider reintroducing the strike if employers do not accept the pay rise. And in my opinion they are quite right to keep this option open. We have seen what the likes of Tom Parlon have done to the country, and now they want to do even more damage by reducing workers' pay, while they themselves go home with large salaries each month. There is already a deep divide between rich and poor in Ireland, and if we let the employers make this rift even wider, all we will get in return is more unemployment and considerable social unrest.

The Emerald Islander

1 comment:

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