[Marxism] Sea war as ferry sends in union busters

James Daly james.irldaly at ntlworld.com
Fri Nov 25 01:57:26 MST 2005

Sea war as ferry sends in 'union busters'

Friday November 25th 2005

Special squads board ship as Irish Ferries crew seize control room

Gerry Flynn

IRISH Ferries brought employment relations to an explosive new level 

It brought in specially trained 'union-buster' security squads to take 
control of its freight and ferry ships on the Irish Sea.

In a dramatic development, security guards wearing flak jackets and 
baseball caps boarded one of the company's vessels at Pembroke as foot 

At the same time, the company confirmed it had begun the process of 
laying off seafaring staff in favour of cheaper foreign workers.

Eyewitnesses spoke of security guards rushing on board the Isle of 
Inishmore at Pembroke in military style yesterday afternoon.

A shop steward with the Seaman's Union of Ireland told his union the 
guards said their orders were to secure the bridge and retain control 
of the ship.

Two bus loads of Eastern European workers boarded the Isle of 

Tony Ayton from the International Transport Workers' Federation said 
members of the Irish staff barricaded themselves into a vital part of 
the ship's control room.

The company confirmed it had taken similar action on its Ulysses ferry 
at Holyhead last night, with security squads hired to get migrant 
replacement workers on board.

Company personnel chief Alf McGrath said its decision to proceed with 
bringing in Eastern European workers, mainly Latvians, was "due to the 
failure of the Labour Court recommendation" last week.

The company rejected that recommendation.

It plans to replace 540 Irish workers with low-paid foreign staff.

And the row spread into Dublin Port when crew members walked off the 
Jonathan Swift ferry shortly after 7pm.

They left after their shop steward was refused permission to board to 
tell them what was happening on the two other Irish Sea ferries.

The crew decided to leave the vessel, which had remained in Dublin 
because of bad weather, to meet with their union representative in the 
nearby terminal building.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern branded the ferry company's actions as "totally 

He backed the comments of Marine Minister Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher who 
said he was "very disappointed" that Irish Ferries had rejected Labour 
Court recommendations.

The Labour Court said it should honour its agreement with its unions.

It emerged that the Government was told by Irish Ferries only 
yesterday that the company intended to proceed with replacing its 
Irish staff with low-wage foreign workers.

It gave no hint, however, that it was about to take such action within 

Referring to the situation on board the two ships, Mr McGrath last 
night said: "Our managers are presently on the ships talking with the 
crews with a view to seeing if they will relent."

But he continued to stoutly defended the company's actions.

Mr McGrath said that, although the new workers were being brought in 
now, none of the Irish staff would be removed before December 8.

He denied the use of security squads to accompany several busloads of 
Latvian workers aboard the ships was inflammatory.


Criticising "all this hoo-haa over what we are doing", Mr McGrath said 
"we have to make our own stand".

He added that the company's approach "poses no threat to social 

Socialist party TD Joe Higgins described the Irish Ferries' action as 
"an outrageous development".

And he said the Taoiseach, Government and the so-called Social 
Partnership had now "not a shred of credibility in face of the 
onslaught" from the ferry company.

"This is a challenge to the entire trade union movement in Ireland - a 
declaration of war on the wages and working conditions of all 
workers," Mr Higgins added.

Irish Ferries said the crew of the Jonathan Swift at Dublin Port 
returned to the vessel last night after meeting with shop stewards.

© Irish Independent
http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/ & http://www.unison.ie/

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