Some thoughts on the 2017 transport strike

With the transport worker’s strike escalating with extension of the picket lines to Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann depots I would like to make some comments on how I see the way forward. Obviously I am not privy to the details of the dispute and balance of forces on the ground so rather than a full programme for taking the dispute forward I can only make comments at a general level but they still might be of interest.

  • Underlying any approach to the strike should be the principle of working class solidarity – “An injury to one is an injury to all”. Any attack on a section of the working class is an attack on us all.

This is true both at the level of general working class solidarity but also more concretely in terms of what is being described in this dispute as “the race to the bottom”. The capitalists will always use successful attacks on one group of workers as a justification for attacks on other sections of the working class. Most immediately this affects other workers in the transport sector but it is true more generally as well.

  • “Picket lines mean don’t cross” – any picket line of striking workers that calls on other workers not to cross should not be crossed. Support for this understanding, and that it may be necessary to enforce this physically, needs to be promulgated as widely as possible.
  • No reliance on the intuitions of the state.

There is a lot of talk about taking the dispute back into the capitalist state’s normal procedures for negotiating industrial disputes. However it should be obvious to anyone with eyes to see that there is no possibility of a compromise with some give and take on either side in this dispute.  Bus Éireann is in a dire financial state, unable to adequately compete in a market where the government is forging ahead with its programme of increasing privatisation allowing private bus companies to cherry-pick the best routes and employ workers on less favourable pay and conditions. There should be a centrally funded public system which provides for the transportation needs of all who need it.

  • Don’t trust the union leadership.

Even the best of the leadership of the unions as they currently exist are compromised by understanding their social role to be negotiators between the employers and workers who will find compromises through the capitalist state’s industrial adjudication processes.

But sometimes they will go even further such as NBRU General Secretary Dermot O’Leary who called for the secondary pickets to be ended, saying he had no prior warning of the pickets and did not condone unofficial secondary picketing. (https://www.rte.ie/news/2017/0331/864017-bus-eireann-dispute/ – includes a link to video/audio of O’Leary making his comments)

  • Direct rank and file control of the dispute.

The other side to having no trust in the union leadership is that it is necessary to bring the strike under direct democratic control of the rank and file. Every depot should have a strike committee with delegates to regional and national strike organising committees. All positions to subject to immediate recall by those who elected them if required. These strike committees should cross union lines with all workers involved in the strike part of the same democratic structure.

  • Extend the solidarity.

The task of building solidarity with the strike should not be passive. Strike support committees of other workers wanting to actively support the strike should be created. They would organise meetings and protests in support of the strike, hold collections to help the strikers financially, organise helping the picket lines with food and moral support etc. Any strike support committees would be subordinate to the strike committees of the workers on strike.


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