Workers at the Instant Upright company, based in Dublin, are locked in a battle with their employer, like the Debenhams’ shop workers also in Ireland.
Billy Flynn from CWI Ireland reports from the picket line:
There are fifteen workers taking strike action. They are taking shifts of two to ensure there is no attempt by the company to move equipment. All floor staff are members of the Connect Union but many office staff are not unionised.
The company’s difficulties began last December. The workers reported that 2019 had been a bumper year but as they were winding up for Christmas some workers were laid off. The company then started bringing in agency workers for busy times on lower pay. The union managed to win better pay for agency staff; however, they don’t have the same conditions as full-time workers.
The company is global and staff were aware of a new factory in Latvia. They were surprised and angered when, under the cover of the covid lockdown, the company tried to move machinery and equipment to Latvia.
The workers blocked removal of equipment by engaging with the truck drivers, explaining their situation and that they are a unionised workplace. The truck drivers agreed not to move equipment. This is a great example of working-class solidarity and demonstrates the importance of tactics appealing to workers’ class consciousness and solidarity.
The striking workers are now facing disciplinary action. The workers who protested have all been called for individual zoom meetings with managers and accused of obstruction. No workers will attend these meetings. They see through it as an attempt to bully workers individually. They have a strong understanding of the strength of collective action.
They also have an understanding of their worth to the company as its real wealth creators. In their words: “the boss creams off the money we make”. The boss in question, Australian millionaire, Rik Stowe, spends most of his time in Monaco.
While this strike involves a small number of workers, it concerns a global company. The workers believe that the last thing Stowe would want is bad PR. With that in mind, some solidarity messages from workers and trade unionists around the world are helpful.
The workers have set up a Facebook page and would greatly appreciate any messages of support. They were due to go back to work post-lockdown, on June 8th, and are now waiting to see what happens next.
Like the Debenhams retail workers’ strike across Ireland, this is an example of how capitalists will not hesitate to use the pandemic to attack their workers, so as to maximise profit. CWI Ireland offers our full solidarity and support to the Instant Upright workers.