Monday, November 28, 2005

Sailing by

The situation at Irish Ferries continues and this weekend took an even more bizarre twist following the placing of security men on board two ships which were docked in the UK. The ships officers are locked into the control rooms in protest against the move having originally thought that there was a terroist attack taking place.
Claims and counter claims abound about whether the security men are armed with tear gas were made in Irish Media outlets this weekend. In fact, Ah has a good piece about the saga to date.

One of the most interesting pieces of Irish radio in many a year took place on Saturday. The Group Industrial Correspondent of the Irish independent, Gerald Flynn, got into his car, drove to RTE's studios in Montrose and ran to the studio to stand over a story he had written on the presence of tear gas amongst the weapons on hand to the Security guards. You can listen to the programme here.

On Sunday, Flynn wrote again about (registration required) the fact he was standing ver his story. Today RTE reported that Flynn is taking a break from reporting on the story. Irish Ferries are threatening legal action.
The dispute is having a severe impact on exports and imports, however the other ferry companies are growing more angry at the strategy of Irish Ferries to make Irish waged workers redundant and replace them with contract poorly paid Eastern European workers. Stena and Norse Merchant both fly UK flags and pay wages at the appropriate rates and say they have no intention to follow Irish Ferries lead.

An Irish ship flying the Irish flag (for now) sailing on European Union waters between two European Union member states is not bound by EU law or the minimum wage law of either member state. The maritime laws are as old as the hills and nothing can be done to change them.

This dispute may break the partnership agreement which has lead to Ireland's economic success (well so has Charles J Haughey, EU membership, and many other things depending on who you listen to). The Taoiseach makes noises of discontent at the tactics of management but says he is powerless to do anything else. What happened to super Bertie, the firebrigade negotiator of many a strike in the 1980's.

Sociologists will point to the impact of globalisation and this being a prime example. George Ritzer recently spoke in Dublin on outsourcing and Irish Ferries is busy trying to outsource, increase profit and it does not care how it looks it seems from the incidents in the dispute to date. The privatisation of so many industries in Ireland and Ireland's small place in the 'global economy' brings many unpleasant realities for Irish workers. This is globalisation with extra chilli on top given that instead of factories being moved to Eastern Europe or other locations, workers are being moved to a locale in or near Ireland and being paid Eastern European rates.
I don't know how many Irish waged workers (new phrase this - don't know how much I like it!) will express solidarity with Irish Ferries staff and given that we cannot see the workers barricaded into the control room on the ship it will be harder still for them to tell their story. However they seem to have mobile phones, food and power as some of the officers are on the radio from time to time.


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