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Workers fight introduction of cheap labour
A DISPUTE over the replacement of British and Irish crews with cheap Eastern European labour, mostly from Latvia, by Irish Ferries has led to an escalation of action between the unions and the company over the past few days.
Alec Thraves, Socialist Party Wales
The Isle of Inishmore, which runs between Pembroke Dock in West Wales to Rosslare, and the Ulysses which runs between Holyhead in North Wales to Dublin, have remained in the two Welsh ports after attempts by Irish Ferries to crew the ships with coachloads of East European workers.
In Pembroke some of the crew barricaded themselves in the engine room after security guards came on board in an attempt to replace them with cheap labour.
In Holyhead, the crew of the Ulysses, the world's largest car ferry, have refused to operate the ship bound for Dublin for similar reasons.
Another Irish ferry is also stranded by workers in Dublin.
Irish Ferries want to cut the wage bill in half, with hundreds of workers being thrown out after many years service.
Members of SIPTU and the Seaman's Union of Ireland are confronting a vicious employer determined to cut back wages and conditions and ruthlessly exploit cheaper Eastern European labour.
Trade unionists in England and Wales should fully support the Irish trade unions by giving full backing and solidarity to the crews of Irish Ferries.
On 27 November, port workers at Rosslare, members of SIPTU, refused to handle a ferry from Cherbourg.
Passengers eventually disembarked in Dublin.
Socialist Party TD (MP) Joe Higgins said that SIPTU president's call for a national day of protest should be: "A national one-day work stoppage by the entire trade union movement - while maintaining essential services.
"This would be a clear signal to the employers' body IBEC that the abuse of migrant labour to undercut trade union rates of pay and working conditions for any worker irrespective of national origins will not be tolerated.
"There is a widespread and deeply felt anger among working people in this State over what Irish Ferries is doing.
"A national stoppage would harness this feeling into a powerful movement to protect all workers from exploitation."
Battle for safety on London Underground
MEMBERS OF rail unions RMT and ASLEF and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) joined forces on 26 November to fight plans to water down safety measures on London Underground. The demonstration took place on the anniversary of the terrible Kings Cross fire in 1987.
It was after this disaster that the 'Section 12' legislation was introduced which set out requirements for fire alarms, suppression systems and minimum staffing levels. The government now want to abolish this legislation and replace it with more 'flexible' guidelines.
London Underground want to cut staffing levels, even though the recent 35-hour week deal included assurances that this would not happen. Amongst other things, they want to remove the requirement for ticket barriers to be staffed - saying that CCTV is a safe replacement. But most locations for watching the cameras do not have a facility to open the gates in an emergency.
Meanwhile Metronet and Tubelines - the companies running privatised maintenance of the tube network - are making £2 million profit a week.
At the rally outside Kings Cross station, RMT general secretary Bob Crow declared that the trade unions should not send another penny to New Labour, who are putting the safety of workers and passengers at risk. "One reduction in safety will spark the biggest ballot for action you've ever seen," he said.
In The Socialist 1 December 2005: