OVER 100,000 workers turned out for a massive demonstration through Dublin yesterday, as the country was brought to a halt in a general strike day of protest against super-exploitation by Irish Ferries.
The day of protest was called by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in support of SIPTU members fighting attempts by Irish Ferries to replace them with cheap, European slave labour.
A march set off from Parnell Square with mass delegations from the SIPTU trade union, SUI (Seamen’s Union of Ireland), ATGWU, TEEU, Impact, as well as banners from the Aberdeen Trades Council and Scotland RMT and Northern Ireland UNISON.
Workers carried placards saying ‘Threshold decency’, ‘Free market or slave market?’, ‘Make the links, break the chains’ and SIPTU members carried a banner saying ‘No slave labour on Irish ships’.
Taking part in the march were not only Irish Ferries workers, but Aer Lingus workers in uniform, firefighters, bus workers, tram workers and railworkers, as well as actors, musicians, library workers and council workers.
There were large numbers of youth on the march and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Youth banner. The march was applauded as it went through the streets of Dublin by crowds lining the route.
Addressing a mass rally at the end of the march, Peter McQuinn, president of the ICTU, said that the Irish trade unions were back again.
He said: ‘We’re delighted to welcome the 80,000 to 100,000 out on this demonstration and there are thousands of others (demonstrating) in Cork and other towns across the whole of Ireland.’
There were marches in Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Belfast, as well as numerous other towns.
McGuinn told the Dublin rally: ‘This march sends a strong message to the workers on Irish Ferries who have been in the forefront of this campaign.
‘We want to send a frank message to the government and employers: we won’t tolerate injustices or the exploitation of workers.
‘People have turned out the length and breadth of the country to support these workers and there is demonstration in Belfast today.
‘We want to send a message to employers who are prepared to exploit workers: we want that rooted out and ended.’
David Begg, ICTU general secretary, said: ‘It’s been a long time since there’s been a demonstration like this applauded through the streets of Dublin.
‘Trade unions are here to stay.
‘We say to SIPTU and the workers at Irish Ferries: we are with you all the way.
‘Our message to the employers is there is a level of decency below which we will not accept anybody is trapped, no matter where they come from.’
He added: ‘Everywhere there is exploitation. At Irish Ferries it is at its most brutal, but it is everywhere.
‘We will not accept a race to the bottom that will have a devastating effect on society as a whole.’
He went on: ‘The eyes of Europe are upon us. What is happening here is happening in Sweden and in Denmark as well.
‘Workers of Europe are watching us.’
He concluded: ‘The government has to protect the Irish nation and not be preoccupied with the interests of multi-nationals alone.
‘So we must stand together. We must welcome workers from Warsaw to Waterford into our ranks.’
Patricia King, regional secretary of SIPTU, declared: ‘I want to express our solidarity with our four ships officer colleagues on the “Innishmore’’.
‘These men have taken upon their shoulders this great battle.
‘They have been holed up for weeks in the engine room of the “Innishmore’’ on behalf of all of you, to say: don’t go beyond the line.’