Ireland: No to slave labour at Irish Ferries

ICTU must call 24hour general strike now!

Leaflet produced by the Socialist Party, Ireland. pdf available

No to slave labour at Irish Ferries

The barricading of the control rooms of two ships by Irish Ferries workers should be fully supported by all working class people. It should represent the start of industrial action and a mobilisation of the trade union movement that doesn’t end till the plans of the management are defeated once and for all.

This battle is not just about defending 543 trade union jobs. This is now the biggest issue in the country and is relevant to all workers. Other companies are watching and egging on Irish Ferries. This is a battle against forced competition between workers and a "race to the bottom" that will create poverty conditions for all workers and super profits for the bosses. These policies of capitalist globalisation must be fought otherwise they will spread like a disease.

The bosses’ organisation IBEC has fully backed the Irish Ferries management. They say "most reasonable people" would agree that it would be better to have "several hundred moderately paid jobs, than no jobs". By moderately paid they mean €3.60 an hour working 84 hours a week. IBEC have a cheek – the boss at Irish Ferries, Eamonn Rothwell is paid €687,000 a year!

The choice between "low paid jobs and no jobs" is a false choice. Likewise workers who originally felt forced into accepting redundancy, had no free choice. It is time for the trade unions to reject the lies, arguments and choices put forward by profit hungry bosses. Economic organisation is not only possible if it is for profit and the creation of a super rich elite! There is nothing to stop us using the vast wealth and talent that exists in a rational way to provide decent jobs, conditions and services for the majority in society. With the technological advances the whole world should be moving forward not backwards towards the poverty conditions of the past. Working class people the world over whose rights are being attacked would prefer such co-operation instead of capitalist competition.


Irish Ferries is an example of what happens when publicly owned companies are privatised. Workers in Aer Lingus, CIE, An Post and the ESB should take heed – what is happening to the Irish Ferries workers will be your future if the government gets away with privatising your companies!

This attack by Irish Ferries is a fundamental test for the trade union movement. The union leaders must not underestimate this attack or peddle any illusions that there is any middle road or compromise that is acceptable. The government has shown that they don’t want to do anything for the workers. There is no other way to defeat this type of attack than by the full mobilisation of the power of the trade union movement through industrial action.

The Socialist Party has been actively supporting the workers at Irish Ferries. We believe that the unions must now organise to consolidate the action that is taking place by completely shutting down Irish Ferries. The workers and unions in Britain and France should be asked for their support and this could become the start of a European wide struggle to rid the shipping industry of poverty conditions.

Democratic public ownership

Some are complaining that the action is hitting exports and should be ended. Action should only be ended when these attacks have been defeated. Irish Ferries management are not willing to provide decent pay and conditions and this essential service is not safe in their hands, Irish Ferries should be taken into democratic, public ownership immediately.

Joe Higgins TD challenges Ahern on Irish Ferries

It is quite clear that the Taoiseach’s recent remarks that nothing could be done about Irish Ferries’ plan to replace 543 workers on trade union rates of pay and conditions with exploited labour, gave the green light to the company in the action it has taken in Pembroke and Holyhead. The Taoiseach’s White Flag of Surrender was the starting flag for Irish Ferries’ bullyboy tactics.

Despite some words of criticism of Irish Ferries, in its failure to act, the Government is showing that its real sympathy is with the neo-liberal drive to maximise profits at the expense of workers’ wages and conditions.

Joe Higgins TD (Socialist Party)

25 November 2005.

We demand

  • No to slave labour conditions at Irish Ferries. Oppose attempts to impose wage competition between workers throughout Ireland
  • Industrial action in Ireland, Britain and France to closedown Irish Ferries
  • For a 24-hour general strike by all workers next Friday 2 December to defeat the plans of management and as a warning to all employers
  • Take Irish Ferries into democratic public ownership in order to safeguard pay and conditions and to safeguard the shipping industry as a vital asset

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November 2005