Comparisons were drawn this week between the conditions for Irish workers 100 years ago and the struggles they face today.
Union leaders gathered at the SIPTU (Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union) conference in Dublin. ITF acting general secretary Steve Cotton was among speakers who also included general secretary of the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) Bob Crow.
Delegates heard reports of a nation still struggling with the impact of the economic collapse, with unemployment levels of almost 15 per cent, harsh austerity measures, mass youth emigration and working conditions so precarious that many in jobs are losing sleep and walking to work to avoid the cost of travel.
Cotton said: “In 1913 we saw 20,000 Irish workers locked out as they fought for their right to join a union in the most significant industrial dispute in the country’s history. Conditions at work and at home were poor and some of these people were literally fighting for their lives. Now, a century later, we’re looking at a workforce in Ireland which is still being denied basic rights.
“Employers are engaged in a race to the bottom. They’re saying to workers, join a trade union, sure, but we don’t have to engage with that union unless we feel like it. There is no right to collective bargaining and employers are taking advantage of that.
“But despite the hardships faced by workers, they are not alone. Their fight is our fight because these are issues which are key to all of us as trade unionists.”
Take a look at this film on the 1913 Dublin lockout which was screened during the SIPTU conference >>