President and National Secretary address annual conference
President of the Independent Workers Union, Patricia Campbell delivered the following address to the union’s annual conference on 29th March 2014
Brothers and Sisters
Once again it is a pleasure to address our delegates to the 11th annual conference of the IWU. Building a radical social movement is not easy and we know that from experience. There is and will be great resistance from those who have the power and wish to maintain this rotten establishment which exists both north and south of Ireland. They won’t always have the power
We have had our setbacks, we have had our disappointments but we have kept going and we have made many gains over the last 10 years. We continue to make an impact in the midst of hopelessness.
It is encouraging to see new faces here today. Some have come and gone over the years but we have dedicated members and activists that have been here from the beginning and have stayed the path and will stay the path.
I would like to welcome and congratulate the Derry IWU Taxi branch for organising themselves into the IWU to fight for a better living wage for their families and their community. They have been organising in Derry over the last year or so and already they have won gains. Speaking of Derry, it is important to note that the people of Derry have begun to organise for better health services with their youth especially in mind and I believe that their action will inspire communities across Ireland to do likewise. I also believe that they will win.
Cuts to our public services continue and the bankers forced recession takes a greater hold with the aid of our corrupt politicians and their ruthless policies which serves to alienate the working class.
While we haven’t taken to the streets like the people of Madrid and other parts of Europe, there has been fight backs. Workers rejected the Croke park deal, many rejected the property tax but the system imposed their will by taking the people’s money either from their bank accounts, wages, and state benefits or in any way they could and without their permission.
There has been and there is resistance to this rotten system all over the country but sadly the leadership of a bureaucratic trade union movement believe that Bankers must be paid and we must sacrifice to do so. They have demonstrated this belief by negotiating with the masters and keeping the lid on the restlessness of the people.
More recently this rotten system has been exposed further by the actions of two brave independent TD’s Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, who themselves were subjected to attempted character assassination for doing what they were elected to do and that is the promotion of an open and transparent system. They are both characters of integrity and courage now. How can people have confidence in a police force and a justice system that attempts to cover up the truth? They even call it a democracy.
We have a right wing administration in the six counties, Northern Ireland, the North call it what you like but it is there and it is an experiment to be tried and tested on the rest of the world, secret trials and interment. This repressive legislation lies in wait for us all if we don’t move to oppose it.
Ordinary workers in N Ireland are constrained and restricted by employment legislation and a tribunal system which is couched in favour of the employer and not the employee. There isn’t a level playing field. The prosecutor is the adjudicator. We must work to overturn this dreadful situation and reclaim a fair industrial tribunal system which will facilitate and enable workers to represent ourselves.
The privatisation of our public services is steadily taking hold. Regulatory, statutory bodies and watchdog bodies paid for by the public purse to hold the system to account are not fit for purpose and make way cover ups which places profit before people. Again the trade union movement have sat and are sitting in their complicit silence to allow this to happen.
I am proud to say that the IWU are instrumental in challenging these wrongs and we are building a viable alternative. We could not do it if it were not for you. It is you who invest your time and energy voluntarily with such commitment. We will collectively bring about much needed change. I am proud to be part of it.
Finally I wish to take this opportunity to wish our IWU members who have put themselves forward for local council election north and south. While they are not standing as IWU candidates they are campaigning on socialist principles. I wish all candidates campaigning on socialist principles success. It is heartening that the spirit for fairness is still out there, well and alive – just like it is in the IWU.
Patricia Campbell, president Independent Workers Union
Noel Murphy, National Secretary of the Independent Workers Union made the following address to the union’s 11th annual conference on 29th March 2014.
Our organisation is 12 years old at this our 11th Annual Delegate Conference. We exist and given our limited resources because of small membership, few assets and a large dependence on voluntary labour, we are not faring too badly. We are high on aspiration. We seek to improve the conditions of our members, and of workers and their families in general both here in Ireland and worldwide. We seem mainstream Trade Unionism, continuing on the shameful road, of failing to challenge Government in any significant way, based on the premise that Labour in Government prevents the EU led austerity programme from being worse, than if Fine Gael was alone in Government.
There was never such a need for militant Trade Unionism and yet, many workers, particularly private sector workers fail to join the movement for a number of reasons.
*Fear that Trade Union Membership will lead to Job Loss through victimisation
*Fear that Trade Union membership will mitigate against future employment.
*Trade Union membership will make no difference.
*Trade Unions are just another part of the repressive State apparatus
*The Unions are self-serving, self interests groups made up of overpaid bureaucrats who don’t really care about ordinary workers.
We regard ourselves as being different from the “Mainstream Trade Unions”, but we are also failing to attract new members in any great numbers and it is the intention of this conference to devote most of our time to address this crisis.
Our Work in 2013
The Union executive met 4 times since the last Annual Conference, with a reasonable attendance record from all NEC members. There was an adjustment in the NEC composition as one Northern member replaced another during the year. In addition to the regular NEC meetings we also held an extraordinary Conference in October last in Dublin. We maintain Offices in Tyrone, Cork and Dublin. We expect to move back to the Seamen’s Union Building in Dublin very soon and we could also open an office in Belfast.
We have functioning branches in Cork, Dublin, and the area known as Northern Ireland. We have groups of members in Derry, Galway, Belfast, Donegal and Wicklow. We have individual membership in various counties around the country.
Overall we have a membership of around 700 paying members and a substantial number of these are non Irish nationals, mostly Polish serviced by a Polish Office. Membership is static, largely due to recession and it seems that every time we gain a new member, we lose somebody else as a result of the recession.
Ireland – Political and Economic
The Political and Economic situation in both parts of Ireland remains largely unchanged since our last Annual Conference. Unemployment remains at around 14% and would be much higher if we were not exporting our young (mostly) unemployed at a rate of around 80,000 per annum. Workers in employment continue to see pay being cut (although noises about pay rises are being heard). The Industrial relations institutions would appear to have adopted a pro employer bias.
Last year we saw the EAT rule against a worker who was made redundant and we had a dismissal case, where the dismissal was way over the top in relation to the offence, being upheld by the EAT on the grounds that the employer had “acted reasonably” Adding to this we have the Civil Courts, granting injunctions preventing legitimate Strike Action and declaring that damages must be paid to the offended employer.
Additional taxes, outside of payroll taxes are being levied on the dwelling place and shortly on rain, while there seems to be no effort to redistribute this new exchequer revenue in real job creation projects. In fact, to date, we are only being offered schemes, which provide little or no training and in some places, will leave worker financially worse off. However there has emerged, a new approach to incomes, from our recently founded Derry Branch in the concept of a living wage as opposed to a minimum wage. This is a welcome development and deserves serious discussion on the Recruitment and Organisation section of our conference.
The Political opposition is virtually non existent in the North as a result of the “power sharing” arrangement at Stormont while in the South is curtailed through the parliamentary whip system, a Government comprising half of the Dáil Deputies and the most serious decisions having to be approved by or dictated from the European Union.
Recent developments in the Southern State prove that the ruling class, even when exposed rallies to its own defence, e.g. Gårda Whistle Blowing, Salaries of “Charity” chiefs, Banking Enquiries. Real opposition to the policies of austerity imposed on the working people, North and South by the European Union in conjunction with the Irish and British Governments must come from the people and its organisations.
After 30 years of collaboration the main Trade Union structure is tied into the establishment and does not seem to know how to break free, even through it is being strangled by the same establishment.
Past and Future
We honoured the men and women of the 1913 lockout last year (in spite of those who wished to deny us this right), but it was pitiful to see that the proposed mass rally for Dublin, organised by the ICTU needing barriers erected to protect the leading officials of Unions and the Labour Party from the wrath of the working people. We need a new approach to organising among workers at work and in communities and I suggest some headings:
The Rain Tax
Worker Representative Groups
Radicalism through Art
Organising non Irish workers
Active Service Units
This is difficult work for a largely voluntary organisation and I take this opportunity to acknowledge this work.
Activity has costs associated with it and funds have to be found. While additional fund-raising takes place and is welcome, the basic source of Trade Union funding is membership. We recruit only in small amounts and in recent years, we seem to be running just to stand sill in the same spot.We are familiar with the historical promises of big groups of workers saying that they supported and would join an Independent Union e.g. ILDA, Keelings, AT&GWU, SUI, LUAS, Taxi Drivers, Bus Workers, UCD Clerical and Irish Emergency Services
A breakthrough with any large group would give us the income to work on the areas most in need of organisation. These are generally the most abused and exploited and I believe that it is our philosophy to fight for the most downtrodden underdog. At this conference, I welcome the views and comments of all present as to how we achieve the aim of going from a small organisation, which has proved it is capable of surviving into being a large organisation, improving the interests of large amounts of working people.
Noel Murphy, National Secretary, 29th March 2014.
Derry IWU branch call for living wage
Members from the DUP, Sinn Fèin and Sdlp attending a meeting with the IWU. All parties including local socialist leader, Eamon Mc Cann have agreed to a joint approach in highlighting the need for a £3 minimum taxi fare across the city and a 50p increase in all fares,the parties agree that it is quite reasonable to ask that this structure is implemented so as to assist the taxi drivers in making a living wage and that the £3 minimum fare should be right across the city.
National Secretary calls for unity on low pay
Independent Workers Union National Secretary Noel Murphy has issued a call to workers in low paid ‘fast-food’ industry to organise with the IWU and fight for better pay and conditions
Derry branch unveils new banner
IWU president Patricia Campbell visited Derry to unveil the taxi branch’s new banner. After officiating at the ceremony, Patricia met and addressed the local branch members.
Mayday event in Belfast
The Independent Workers Union presented a mosaic to Conway Mill in Belfast on Saturday 4th May 2013 to commemorate the centenary of the Dublin lockout. The event was presided over by IWU president Patricia Campbell and legendary Belfast trade unionist Joe Bowers unveiled the mosaic. Joe Quinn, one of the directors of Conway Mill, received the art work on behalf of the mill. The wonderful piece of art work was created and designed by Joan Casey of Waterford.
Regret at decision by anti-union element in Newry
Noel Murphy, national secretary of the Independent Workers Union (IWU), has expressed his disappointment at the news that Newry and Mourne Cooperative has reversed its decision to accept a gift of a mosaic from the IWU commemorating the 100th anniversary of the great Dublin lockout.
Mr Murphy concluded his statement saying;
” Both of James Larkin’s parents were born and reared in the Newry area and I am astonished at the reactionary attitude of this group to a simple request to honour a son of the area. Paradoxically though, it is a massive tribute to the power of Larkin, the great champion Ireland’s working class, that after all these years, the business class of Newry still fear his voice.”