Ireland: Building and Allied Trade Union (BATU) strikers appeal for support

Union officials pass pickets, sacks employees, slash wages and refuse proper union recognition!

“I see you’re swapping the red flag for the union jack, now.” This was shouted out of a window to strikers by the BATU General Secretary, Paddy O’Shaughnessy, on the first day of our strike. The union jack jibe relates to our union, Unite/ATGWU, being a British-based union. Eight weeks later, Paddy escalated his campaign, from pathetic jibes to driving into picketers and supporters who were protesting at union head office.

We are on strike following the forced redundancy, last May Day, of two union officials, without criteria or negotiation, and following the threat of imposed pay cuts and detrimental changes to conditions of office staff. The general secretary, whose union members rely on the policy of "first in last out", stated that this policy does not apply to union staff.

The strike is raising a challenge to both BATU (Building and Allied Trade Union )members and trade unionists, in general. BATU members who have been hugely supportive of the strikers are now faced with the prospect of being represented on site by scabs and strike-breakers or fighting a battle to transform their union. At a time when the Construction Industry Federation is on the offensive, under the leadership of former PD [member of Irish parliament] Tom Parlon, to drive down workers’ wages, members need officials who will fight and defend construction workers – Not union officials that pass pickets, sacks their employees, slashes wages and conditions, and refuses proper union recognition to its own workforce!

For the broader trade union movement, it is intolerable that BATU General Secretary Paddy O’Shaughnessy remains a member of the Executive of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) – a position which will see him negotiate the pay and conditions of thousands of workers at the upcoming pay talks.

Incredibly, ICTU refused to hear a complaint from Unite, which stated that BATU was bringing the movement into disrepute by its members passing pickets and by the treatment of staff. ICTU said that this was a matter between an employer and employees and not therefore appropriate for complaint to ICTU under section 41 of its constitution!

ICTU and other union leaders must not be allowed to get away with taking a neutral position on this dispute – why are they not publicly supporting six workers who have stood on the picket line, since 9 May, in defence of union principles?

At this point, we are appealing directly to trade union members to put pressure on ICTU to take action. A campaign involving strikers and supporters from BATU and other unions will be launched, calling for Paddy O’Shaughnessy to be suspended from the Executive of ICTU. A petition will be launched amongst trade union members calling for this and a model motion which can be raised at branches is available.

For more information on how you can assist our campaign, and to get copies of the petition and model motion, please phone Susan Fitzgerald 087 6273581.

Please make donations to the strike fund at Permanent TSB, Phibsboro, Dublin 7, Account No: 13035480 Sort Code: 990603.

Sign the online petition

The following is an extract from a letter the BATU strikers have sent to David Begg, ICTU General Secretary:

"However we also have the obvious contradiction that four officials of BATU, a Congress affiliated union, are daily crossing the official pickets of another Congress affiliate and, once in the building, are attempting to do the work of the strikers. There is only one word that we know of in the trade union vocabulary to describe people who act in such a way. The word is – scab.

"The fact that paid union officials are crossing an official picket is deeply damaging and potentially very embarrassing, not only to BATU, but to the entire trade union movement. This situation is compounded by the fact that Paddy O’Shaughnessy is a sitting Executive member of Congress…

"We feel that the only way to resolve this, and to avoid any damage to the trade union movement as a whole, is for ICTU to suspend Paddy O’Shaughnessy from his position on the Executive of Congress and from any other position in which he might act as a representative of ICTU. This suspension should last at least until there is a favourable resolution of our dispute. We hope that you will agree with this proposal and that Congress will act accordingly.”