The Greyhound strike is over. After a hard 14 week lockout the majority of workers voted to accept a deal with Greyhound.
The workers were faced with threats to their houses, the riot squad down at the pickets, being dragged before the High Court, taunts and jeers from the scabs and yet they stood strong.
The strike gained a boost of real energy in the last few weeks when the workers voted to defy the industrial relations legislation that ties workers hand and foot and to initiate real blockades.
Such real pickets hit the bosses in the only place they care about – their pockets – by slowing or shutting down the business. Mass pickets of workers and supporters gathered from early in the morning at the depots on Crag Avenue and Knockmitten.
The leaders of our union movement, all in the name of ‘social partnership’, for years have accepted a situation where striking workers stand back and have to watch as scabs pass them by. Any attempt to stop the scabs was met by threats of jailings and High Court injunctions.
In this way the bosses could sit back and feel secure in the knowledge that attacks on workers would be aided by the mechanisms of the State and that the union leaders would mount a poor defense – always excusing themselves by claiming their hands were tied by the legislation.
Socialists and other supporters of the Greyhound workers helped the workers to mount effective pickets- the scab trucks and scab office workers were prevented from going through the gates.
Buckley, the owner, responded with the carrot and the stick. He offered talks and then, like a mafia boss, got the State to hold a gun to the worker’s heads. ‘Accept a derisory offer – or the bully boys of the State will take your houses and jail you!’
But the workers stood strong. When the threat of jail time and costs was thrown at Cllr Gino Kenny of People Before Profit and the SWP the workers stated categorically that any attempt to jail Gino would mean no talks.
This is the real meaning of working class solidarity. Those workers were willing to put their houses and the possibility of jail on the cards in order to defend a supporter.
In the end the workers accepted to deal with Greyhound forcing Buckley to retreat on his 35% paycuts. Some of the workers got redundancy payments, others will be on a Dublin City Council contract and those who remain with Greyhound will only take 15% cuts.
But we have to ask was it necessary for the dispute to go on for a whole 14 weeks? The worker’s fight forced Buckley to back down on his threats and step back from his 35% cuts. What could they have achieved with that immense bravery if they had the right support?
SIPTU, the Greyhound worker’s union, were willing to leave the men standing across the road from the gates with no means by which to stop scabs for weeks on end in the hope that the boss would come and talk.
Shamefully when a vote was taken by the workers to start effective pickets and a real blockade the union representative tried to call a second gathering and overturn the democratic decision of the picket line.
Thankfully the workers stood strong, after another discussion and the intervention of one of their wives who demanded they keep fighting!
But SIPTU with 200,000 members could have called a massive protest in working hours like they did with Irish Ferries, they could have called mass pickets where people turned up without SIPTU placards to get around the legislation.
Or maybe we need a union movement that will stand up to the Injunctions, courts and bosses? The SIPTU leadership’s cowardice meant that this strike dragged on for 14 weeks -when the power of the working class could have shut the place down straight away.
But that would be too much to ask from the likes of Jack O’Connor and his Labour party friends who run our unions. There is a real battle to remove the Labour Party hacks from the tops of our unions, a battle to democratise the structures of the unions.
Without taking that battle on we can never tap into the collective strength of our entire movement.
The Greyhound workers and their families are a shining example of the real values of the working class- they represent strength, unity, solidarity and the spirit of resistance.
They should inspire other workers to stand tall and to stand up to the bullying legislation that holds workers back.
But the lockout is also a testament to the cowardice and impotence of our union leaders.
We have two battles on our hands- we have to keep the assault of the bosses at bay and we also have to get our class fighting fit -and that means kicking out the likes of Jack O’Connor and replacing his bureaucracy with democratic structures in workers hands.
Scabs out – workers in! The workers united will never be defeated!