STRIKE ENDS AFTER TEN MONTHS

February 25, 2009

After ten months the strike by Unite members employed by the Building and Allied Trades Union has ended. The dispute began on 9th May 2008 over the forced redundancy of two union officials, including the Unite shop steward, and the imposition of wage cuts and other detrimental changes affecting office staff.

With the notable exception of the Deputy General Secretary, the full time management of the union passed the pickets daily and attempted to keep the union office running. However, because of the outstanding support and solidarity of the BATU membership who respected the picket and supported the strike, BATU has
effectively not operated over the past ten months.

Because of the enormous support received from BATU members, Unite members, other trade unionists and the general public the strike remained solid and united for ten months.

From an early stage it was made clear in correspondence and verbally that the position of BATU management was that none of the strikers would return to their jobs at the end of the dispute.

With the dispute thus at an impasse the officers of the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s intervened and facilitated several months of negotiations in an effort to arrive at a settlement. In December 2008 Congress recommended terms on which the strike could end, these entailed redundancy terms and severance packages.

With no prospect of all six jobs being retained the next best outcome from the strikers point of view was a severance package for all six. On this basis the strikers accepted the Congress recommendation. It took a further two months of strike action to have this fully implemented and to settle the strike.

This dispute has highlighted some of the problems that exist within the trade union movement. However it also showed the determination and solidarity of working people, the qualities which are the bedrock of real trade unionism.

At a time when employers nationally are introducing wage cuts, detrimental changes to conditions and forced redundancy it is these traditions of solidarity and genuine trade unionism that must be to the fore if we are to defend jobs and living conditions.

The BATU strikers would like to express their heartfelt thanks to those who visited the picket line, moved motions through their branches, raised money and who supported us in anyway.

An injury to one is an injury to all.


February 8, 2009
May 2008

May 2008


28th January 2009 – Dublin Trades Council suspends BATU for anti union activity

January 29, 2009

Press statement: For immediate release, 28th January 2009 12pm

Dublin Trades Council suspends BATU for anti union activity
Striking BATU staff today welcomed the decision by the Dublin Trades Council to suspend the Building and Allied Trades’ Union (BATU) from membership of the Council. At its meeting last night delegates of the Dublin Trades Council voted to suspend the Building and Allied Trades’ Union pending a second vote to take place in two weeks time which will call for its expulsion for anti-trade union practices.
The vote which was put to delegates last night followed the unanimous vote on the Executive of the Trades Council to expel, not suspend, the construction union which is at the centre of a bitter nine and a half month dispute with six of its staff. Trades Council members stated that BATU, in its behaviour and treatment of the six strikers, had acted worst than the most anti union employer they had ever encountered.
BATU Strikers Shop steward and Unite member Tom Fitzgerald said today “We are hugely heartened by the decision of the Trades Council to suspend BATU and we hope that they will decide at their next meeting to proceed with expelling BATU. We are standing here today as usual in the freezing cold on the picket line but we finally feel that the broader trade union movement are now taking notice.
He went on to say: “We think it’s crucial now that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions follow suit. Under its present leadership, BATU is a stain on the trade union movement. The only way to remove this stain is to remove BATU from ICTU. BATU’s presence in ICTU denies carpenters and bricklayers the right to the effective trade union organisation that they need in these difficult economic times. Suspending BATU from ICTU would allow carpenters and bricklayers the choice of a struggle to reclaim BATU or else to work out an alternative way to provide genuine trade union representation to all construction workers”.
Ends/
STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE BATU STRIKE COMMITTEE


21st January 2009 BATU STRIKER ARRESTED

January 29, 2009

Enclosed is a copy of the leaflet distributed by BATU strikers to members of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions National Executive Council, who are meeting today at the IMPACT trade union office at Nerney Court.

21st January 2009

BATU Striker arrested and held for peaceful picketing…

TIME FOR REAL TRADE UNIONISTS TO BLACK THE BATU SCABS

At 10am today BATU General Secretary Paddy O’Shaughnessy called Gardai seeking to have BATU strikers, who have been on strike for nine and a half months, arrested for peaceful picketing.

Unite member Susan Fitzgerald was arrested by three gardai and detained for over an hour in a holding cell in Mountjoy Garda Station this morning. This is the latest example of how O’Shaughnessy and his fellow scabs are trampling on basic trade union principles by attempting to use the police to outlaw the right to picket.Anyone who engages in such actions has no place within the official structures of the trade union movement.

In an open letter which we sent to David Begg, General Secretary of ICTU, on 9th January we explained how Paddy O’Shaughnessy has sabotaged ICTU’s attempt to resolve this dispute, this latest incident underlines our call for him to be immediately removed from the ICTU Executive.

We are now issuing a general call to all trade unionists to refuse to participate in any meeting or forum where Paddy O’Shaughnessy or any of his fellow strikebreakers attempt to attend.

We thank all genuine trade unionists for their support throughout this long and difficult dispute.

For more information contact Tom Fitzgerald, Shop Steward 087 2253755 or batustrikers@gmail.com


21st January 2009 BATU STRIKER ARRESTED

January 29, 2009

Enclosed is a copy of the leaflet distributed by BATU strikers to members of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions National Executive Council, who are meeting today at the IMPACT trade union office at Nerney Court.

21st January 2009

BATU Striker arrested and held for peaceful picketing…

TIME FOR REAL TRADE UNIONISTS TO BLACK THE BATU SCABS

At 10am today BATU General Secretary Paddy O’Shaughnessy called Gardai seeking to have BATU strikers, who have been on strike for nine and a half months, arrested for peaceful picketing.

Unite member Susan Fitzgerald was arrested by three gardai and detained for over an hour in a holding cell in Mountjoy Garda Station this morning. This is the latest example of how O’Shaughnessy and his fellow scabs are trampling on basic trade union principles by attempting to use the police to outlaw the right to picket.Anyone who engages in such actions has no place within the official structures of the trade union movement.

In an open letter which we sent to David Begg, General Secretary of ICTU, on 9th January we explained how Paddy O’Shaughnessy has sabotaged ICTU’s attempt to resolve this dispute, this latest incident underlines our call for him to be immediately removed from the ICTU Executive.

We are now issuing a general call to all trade unionists to refuse to participate in any meeting or forum where Paddy O’Shaughnessy or any of his fellow strikebreakers attempt to attend.

We thank all genuine trade unionists for their support throughout this long and difficult dispute.

For more information contact Tom Fitzgerald, Shop Steward 087 2253755 or batustrikers@gmail.com


9th January 2008 – Second Letter to David Begg

January 29, 2009

9th January 2009

Mr. David Begg
General Secretary
Irish Congress of Trade Unions
31/32 Parnell Square
Dublin 1

Dear David,
It now appears that the attempt by officers of ICTU to facilitate a settlement in the BATU dispute will come to nothing. This means that the strike has now entered its ninth month with very little prospect of an early resolution.

The responsibility for the failure of the ICTU mediation rests solely with the General Secretary of BATU, Paddy O’Shaughnessey, and his fellow strikebreakers. With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that they never had any intention of reaching a settlement. They were simply going through the motions of co-operation with the process in order to forestall moves to suspend or expel BATU from Congress.

On behalf of all the Unite members currently on strike at BATU, we would like to thank the officers of Congress for putting the time aside to attempt to resolve this dispute. As the report by the Vice-President (Jack O’Connor) and General Secretary of Congress on the negotiations will no doubt confirm, we participated in these talks in good faith. We were prepared to reach a settlement that would have ended the dispute, and would have done so despite our deep misgivings about some of the proposals that were tabled.

We were unhappy that the deal proposed by Congress in effect accepted the decision of BATU to sack workers for going on strike. It was at the insistence of Congress that the discussions with us were limited to the nature of a severance package whereas we had made clear all along that the strike was about getting all six strikers back to work with our union rights guaranteed.

The discussions, from the outset, were therefore on the terms set out by the BATU strikebreakers and not on our terms. Despite this, and despite our reservations about the details of the package that was eventually recommended by Congress, we participated fully in the process and ultimately indicated that we would accept what was on offer.

We did so fully aware that the BATU had insisted on strings to the package that were deliberately designed to give them an excuse to scupper the deal. These concerned the return of items of BATU property, – namely the union banner, some computers and a number of files, – which had been allegedly removed from the building during the occupation of BATU head office. BATU insisted that this property be returned as a condition of any settlement and, unfortunately, this was made part of the final recommended deal.

The strikers made clear during the negotiations that it was not in our gift to return any of the goods that, allegedly, had been removed from the building. We could not do so because we did not remove this material and none of it was or is in our possession.

What has been alleged is not that the strikers removed this material but that it was taken by BATU members who occupied the building at one point during the strike. The strikers were not involved in this occupation, either in its planning or its conception. It was carried out by BATU members who have their own grievances about the way that the General Secretary and some other senior officers have run the union.

The dispute between BATU members and the current leadership of their union and the strike by Unite members who are employees of BATU are two quite separate issues. Despite the fact that BATU made the return of property the key to resolving the dispute, they refused point blank to discuss or give any commitments to those BATU members who may have been able to assist them in this.
To decide that the resolution of one becomes a pre-condition for resolving the other is effectively to ensure that there can be no resolution of the strike. BATU were well aware of this when they pressed Congress to add this condition to the proposed deal.

During the negotiations the strikers warned that these strings would be used by Paddy O’Shaughnessey as a get out clause to scuttle the whole deal. As we were not in possession of any of the material that is allegedly missing we could not guarantee its return. We gave the only commitment we could – to ask those involved in the occupation – and who might have this material – to return it. We have done this, and Unite officials have also made similar requests on our behalf, but the missing material – if it exists – has not been returned.

If this process has demonstrated anything it is that the BATU have no intention of coming to a settlement. They have, in effect, put two fingers up to the best efforts of the trade union movement as a whole to resolve this damaging dispute.

This brings us back to where we were before the mediation process began. The current BATU leadership have besmirched the fighting traditions laid down by BATU members and have brought disgrace on the entire trade union movement.

Prior to the talks process the BATU strikers issued a call for Paddy O’Shaughnessey to be removed from the ICTU Executive, and for BATU, until such times as it repudiates his actions, to be suspended from ICTU membership. We now reiterate this call as the only way forward.

Our grounds for making this call are as before:

That Paddy O’Shaughnessey refused BATU staff proper trade union rights and recognition

That he, and three fellow scabs, have crossed an official picket line on a daily basis since the start of this dispute and once inside the building are carrying out the work of strikers.

That he has brought in scab labour to do the work of striking Unite members.

That he has sacked four trade union members for taking part in lawful and official strike action.

That he physically assaulted a female striker. This act alone is grounds for Paddy O’Shaughnessy’s removal – otherwise the trade union movement could, as with other institutions in this state, stand accused of brushing such instances of physical abuse under the carpet.

Under the stewardship of a General Secretary whose behaviour is in the William Martin Murphy tradition, not that of trade unionism, BATU has degenerated beyond recognition. An organisation led by people who routinely flaunt basic trade union principles can no longer be regarded as a trade union. BATU, which once proudly fought on behalf of construction workers, has been reduced to little more than a pension fund for strike breakers.

BATU, under its present leadership, is a stain on the trade union movement. The only way to remove this stain is to remove BATU from ICTU. BATU’s presence in ICTU denies carpenters and bricklayers the right to the effective trade union organisation that they need in these difficult economic times. Suspending BATU from ICTU would allow carpenters and bricklayers the choice of a struggle to reclaim BATU or else to work out an alternative way to provide genuine trade union representation to all construction workers.

Paddy O’Shaughnessy’s refusal to enter any constructive negotiations means that our dispute will continue. The cases that are pending against BATU, including the assault charge against Paddy O’Shaughnessey, will go ahead. We thank all those trade unions and trade union members who have given us the support that has kept us going this far and ask that you continue with this support.

Above all we ask all trade unions to pass motions backing our call for the immediate removal of Paddy O’Shaughnessey from the ICTU Executive and for the suspension of BATU from Congress membership until such times as the BATU Executive disassociate itself from the disgraceful anti trade union actions of its General Secretary. The implementation of this motion would be the most effective way to help construction workers achieve proper trade union recognition and to help us to win this important dispute.

Yours fraternally,

The BATU Strikers


13th October 2008 – Letter to Irish Congress of Trade Unions General Secretary David Begg

January 29, 2009

mtg113th October 2008

Mr. David Begg
General Secretary
Irish Congress of Trade Unions
31/32 Parnell Square
Dublin 1

Dear David,

You will recall that we wrote to you on 4th July 2008 outlining the
latest position in our strike and asking that you initiate action to
suspend BATU from Congress on the grounds that the role played by the
General Secretary and his three fellow strike breakers has brought
disgrace on the trade union movement. We are still awaiting a reply to
this letter.

Having been on strike for nearly six months, we expect better from the
leadership of the trade union movement in Ireland. ICTU’s only
intervention in this dispute has been the appointment of a mediator
charged with attempting to resolve this long running dispute.

For our part we welcomed the prospect of mediation and co-operated
fully with this process. However, as the mediator, Janet Hughes,
pointed out in her report, the BATU representatives “indicated that
the only possible resolution to the dispute was an exit package for
all six workers.”

In other words BATU General Secretary, Paddy O’Shaughnessy and his
fellow strikebreakers were making it clear that, in addition to the
two sackings that prompted this dispute, they have now decided to sack
the other four strikers.

It is unprecedented in the history of trade unionism in this country
that a union General Secretary should sack trade union members for
taking part in official strike action. It would be equally
unprecedented were the trade union movement to express no opinion on
this or to take no action as a result.

We were therefore astonished and bitterly disappointed when Janet
Hughes who was, after all, a trade union appointed mediator,
announced that she would pull out of the mediation process unless
further discussions were, as she put it, “on the basis of the BATU
position, ie severance terms for the six strikers.”

Every genuine trade unionist will understand that there was no way we
could continue with talks on this basis. To have done so would have
been to accept as a premise that BATU were entitled to sack people for
going on strike. We were prepared to stay with the mediation process,
including face to face negotiations, but only on the basis that all
the proposals by both sides should be on the table.

The decision by BATU’s four strikebreakers to sack the strikers
changes the nature of our dispute. What began as a strike is now a
lockout. I don’t have to remind you of the significance of the lockout
in the history of our movement. The 1913 lock out lasted nearly five
months and shaped the future course of trade unionism here. Ninety
five years on we have people who masquerade as trade unionists aping
the tactics of the 1913 Dublin employers.

In our previous letter we outlined reasons why BATU should be
suspended from ICTU. This letter is to notify you of the further
reasons why this should be done without delay.

The first is the fact, mentioned above, that the BATU General
Secretary has trampled on every basic tenet of trade unionism by
sacking workers for going on strike.

The second arises from an incident that took place on 17th September.
While we were picketing that day one of the strikers, Susan
Fitzgerald, was physically assaulted by Paddy O’Shaughnessy. This
outrageous incident took place at the front of BATU’s offices and was
witnessed by members of the public as well as the other strikers.
Susan had to have medical treatment following this assault; the matter
has been referred to the police and charges will be brought.

We are formally bringing this matter to your attention for action. The
trade union movement prides itself on promoting equality, in the
workplace and beyond. For this reason alone this assault by a trade
union General Secretary on a female employee and striker requires
prompt action.

If this were a normal employment situation, and a member of management
physically assaulted a female member of staff, it would be regarded as
gross misconduct and the individual responsible would immediately be
suspended.

We ask that the trade union movement show its concern for equality and
women’s rights by acting similarly. Paddy O’Shaughnessy should be
suspended from all posts held in the trade union movement pending a
Court decision on this matter. If the BATU Executive do not
immediately similarly suspend him from the General Secretary post,
this should be further grounds for the union’s suspension from ICTU.

If the ICTU had acted more decisively along these lines earlier in
this dispute our strike could have been resolved much earlier. Six
months on, we would not have found ourselves locked out.

This does not just affect six strikers – ICTU’s refusal to take action
against BATU means that bricklayers and many carpenters throughout the
construction industry are being denied union representation.
Suspension of BATU from ICTU would give BATU members the choice either
to force a change at the top of BATU or else to decide on some other
way to organise and to secure proper representation.

This letter is addressed to yourself, as Congress secretary, and also
to the Executives of all Congress affiliates. We are asking that BATU
be suspended from Congress without delay. We are also asking each
individual union to refuse to permit any of its representatives to sit
on any Congress structure alongside the current BATU General Secretary
or any of his strikebreaking colleagues.

We thank you in anticipation that Congress will now decide to act on
our behalf and on behalf of bricklayers and carpenters throughout this
country.

Lastly we wish to invite you to speak at a public meeting on these
issues which will take place in the Teachers Club on 24th October 2008
at 8pm.

Yours fraternally,

Tom Fitzgerald
Mary McEvoy Fahy
Robert Kelly
Annemarie Malone
Michelle McEnroe
Susan Fitzgerald