We have an invigorated working class ready to do battle with the state

The Trade Union Left Forum launched its Workers’ Rights Campaign in Dublin last month. The campaign is centred on the abolition of the Industrial Relations Act (1990) and all anti-union legislation, to be replaced with a Fair Employment Act that would guarantee—

  1. the right to union access
  2. the right to union recognition
  3. full collective bargaining rights
  4. an end to the voluntarist industrial relations system.

The meeting was well attended, with about sixty activists present. There were a number of excellent speakers from five unions, followed by a Q&A session and a lively discussion on the way forward for the campaign.

The campaign has a twin-track approach: getting anti-union legislation abolished and replaced with a Fair Employment Act, coupled with informing workers of their rights as they are under existing legislation.

Everyone received a copy of the TULF’s pamphlet “Know Your Rights in the Workplace,” the latest WRC leaflet, and a to-do list describing a number of actions and initiatives individual workers and union members can take to advance the campaign’s aims. These are all available for downloading from www.tuleftforum.com/news/.

There will be a follow-up public meeting on “Know Your Rights in the Workplace” in the near future, date and venue to be announced.

So what can you do to support the Workers’ Rights Campaign?

  • Raise the 1990 act in your union branch for discussion.
  • Encourage your branch to endorse the demand to repeal the 1990 act.
  • Distribute the WRC leaflet and “Know Your Rights” pamphlet in your union branch.
  • Send the pamphlet and leaflet to the union executive.
  • Request the union to affiliate to the campaign.
  • If you are a member of a political party, community group, or tenants’ association, ask them to affiliate to the TULF Workers’ Rights Campaign.
  • Ask your union to donate funds, or to print some of its material.
  • Propose motions for section or regional structures.
  • Propose a motion for your union’s delegate conference.
  • Follow up on resolutions and demand action on them.
  • Invite someone from the TULF to address your union branch.
  • Suggest the same to other branches.
  • Help distribute the booklet and leaflet.
  • Get your union or branch to buy copies for distribution.
  • Volunteer to distribute leaflets etc. at your or other union conferences.
  • If you cannot get a motion on the 1990 act passed, try to get one demanding the right to union access, recognition, and collective bargaining.
  • Offer a particular skill you think could be of use in the campaign.
  • Raise the issues in any other organisation you are a member of.

The majority of workers are not members of a trade union. Have you any ideas or suggestions on how to reach them?

  • Encourage friends and relatives to join a union.
  • Encourage non-union workmates to join the union.
  • Read the “Know Your Rights” pamphlet and discuss it in your union branch and work-place.
  • Get active in your union.
  • Join the Trade Union Left Forum (tuleft@gmail.com).
  • Follow the TULF social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and web site).

So far four unions have adopted it as union policy to abolish the 1990 act, namely Mandate, Connect, Unite, and the civil service section of Fórsa, representing a total of 153,000 union members. A number of other unions are to debate and hopefully adopt similar motions at their conferences this year.

Working-class anger is growing. Workers are sick and tired of poverty pay and poor working conditions. Confidence is growing among the working class as they see organised workers fighting back around the world, from Chile to India and throughout Europe, against austerity, inequality, the effects of capitalism.

Confidence among ordinary working people has been growing. The campaign against water charges awakened people to what can be achieved if we stand together. The recent success of French workers’ general strike against their government has added fuel to this fire.

As we start the 2020s we have an invigorated working class ready to do battle with the state and which will not accept the crumbs off the table any longer. In the words of James Connolly—

Some men, faint-hearted, ever seek
Our programme to retouch,
And will insist, whene’er they speak,
That we demand too much.

Tis passing strange, yet I declare
Such statements give me mirth,
For our demands most moderate are,
We only want the earth.