Ireland – bin tax campaign: Bin tax battle

Union inaction – community direct action

ANTI BIN tax protesters and tens of thousands of working class people were disgusted by the jailing of seven residents by South Dublin County Council. Forgetting about the 21 days in jail for a moment, they were fined substantially more for being involved in a legitimate protest than a politician was for seriously injuring a woman while drinking and driving!

The disgust was first directed against the politically biased judicial system and the capitalist parties that are driving this attack on working class communities. People didn’t really expect the unions to jump into action against this outrage, the union leaderships have done nothing of note on the bin tax, the same as on most other issues.

However there was an air of disbelief that the motion from the ATGWU at the Dublin Trades Council on 11 November calling for a work time march against the bin tax and jailings didn’t even get a seconder! Just as during the Great Lock-out 90 years ago, the betrayal by the union leadership, that time in Britain this time in Dublin itself, will be remembered.

If they had an ounce of the understanding and courage of the 22 who have gone to jail, they could have defeated this government on the bin tax within days. The union leaders along with the capitalist politicians should be kicked out!

So far in this movement there have been three decisive periods. The jailing of Clare Daly and Joe Higgins and the mass march to Mountjoy; the two day shut down of the bin collection service on 14 and 15 of October and now the jailing and fining of the South Dublin Seven and the lack of a mass response.

The tactics for which the Socialist Party has argued and pursued within the Anti Bin Tax Campaigns have been for community action aimed at disrupting the service, building pressure for action within the unions and thirdly, threatening the electoral base of politicians and parties that are responsible for the bin tax crisis. For us, mass actions against non-collection and the threat of non-collection were vital as these were the weapons being used to push up the payment figures.

The jailings and the fines, but in particular the lack of response from the unions has had an impact in the communities. At the moment even though there is huge anger, there is not the confidence that the communities on their own can take on and defeat the bin tax and that is even more the case in areas of the city were the Campaign was not properly organised.

It needs to be registered however that our Campaign has also put the Councils under huge pressure. In Fingal, the weekly tag system made the Campaign much more difficult. Even though many people in working class communities, after many weeks of dogged resistance, felt compelled to buy tags in order to avoid an environmental mess, it is clear that there is still massive opposition to the tax. The hesitation at implementing widespread non-collection in the three other areas is because the Councils fear Fingal type resistance in working class areas.

Time is ticking away for the Councils. They want this tax imposed and to break the back of the opposition by Christmas or early new year – the end of the estimates process. They are under considerable financial pressure with speculation that the government will not subsidise the bench marking pay awards. If they attempt to increase the bin tax to compensate, anger could boil over once again. Also the new development charges that the Councils will impose on new house buyers can become an explosive issue. The government’s Budget can also have a direct impact on this battle.

It is vital therefore that campaigners try to hold the line through the estimates process. In all areas, it is likely that the Councils will follow up the South Dublin rulings with attempts to extend non-collection. This is already happening in the city where the Council is imposing a limited form of non-collection in the working class areas where the Campaign has not been organised, with a view to decisively push up payment levels.

Campaigners do have to operate skilfully, mindful that people are fearful of the legal sanctions that are being used. However, the recent protests that have taken place in all areas have shown that with mobilisations from the communities full collection can be forced on the Council without resulting in more jailings.

Public meetings should take place in all areas to discuss the key issues and to organise a response from the communities. Where possible, local activist groups need to be established to resist non-collection and to organise an offensive against Fianna Fail and the PDs in the run up to the estimates process.

While this battle has been difficult with massive odds stacked against us, the correctness of the stand we have made against the bin tax is being confirmed on a daily basis. If we can maintain non-payment in working class areas and continue our protests into the new year, it is the governing parties that can become prone to crisis and very vulnerable as they face the Local and European Elections in a matter of months.

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December 2003