Yesterday General President of the SIPTU trade union, Jack O’Connor wrote to every member of the union concerning the struggle to stop the replacement of trade union labour with slave labour on Irish Ferries.
Earlier, SIPTU said it would not rule out the possibility of blockading ports.
This followed the hiring of security guards to board the Isle of Inishmore at Pembroke and the Ulysses at Holyhead, and replace the crews with Latvian scabs.
O’Connor wrote in a circular to members:
As you will be aware Irish Ferries has dramatically escalated the current dispute by the introduction of “heavies” as widely reported in the national media over the last 24 hours.
‘In the light of this we have today moved to have the Irish Congress of Trade Unions call a National Day of Protest.’
He added: ‘Accordingly, a special meeting of the Executive Council of Congress has been scheduled for Tuesday morning next, 29 November on the matter.
‘Whereas we cannot be precise on the date it is reasonable to assume, given the expressions of support at this morning’s meeting, that the Congress Executive will endorse our call.
‘Accordingly, we are to seek your fullest co-operation by arranging the necessary preliminary consultations to alert shop stewards and workplace representatives of this impending protest and build support for it.
‘Thanking you in anticipation.
After the ICTU executive meeting, Congress General Secretary David Begg said he deplored the actions of the company and added: ‘They cannot be allowed to drag us all to the bottom in the simple pursuit of profit.’
O’Connor stressed earlier: ‘The Irish Ferries dispute is a defining moment in the relations between employers and workers in this country.
‘It is a moment which challenges everyone, on all sides, to declare on the side of decency, social dialogue and constructive engagement, or on the side of thuggery, brutality and the law of the jungle.’
He added: ‘In a moment such as this you are on one side or the other.’
SIPTU Regional Secretary for Dublin, Patricia King, said Irish Ferries was on a ‘mission of thuggery’.
This was after at least 15 extra security staff and up to 70 agency workers from Latvia and a number of other Eastern European countries boarded the Isle of Inishmore, moored at Pembroke in Wales.
Ships’ officers on the ferry, yesterday morning barricaded themselves into the engine room, with one officer saying he and three other colleagues would remain there until the company abided by Labour Court recommendations.
Another ship, Ulysses, was also boarded in a similar fashion whilst docked at Holyhead.
David Cockroft, General Secretary of the International Transport Federation commented on the boardings: ‘This is an astonishing move.
‘It isn’t just an insult to Irish trade unionists and the country’s model of dialogue, but also spits in the eye of the Labour Court, which has barely finished ruling that the company should honour its agreement to keep crews on its domestic services until 2007.
‘It might even have been illegal if carried out in the Republic of Ireland.’