Moments of crisis: Aer Lingus seeks millions from SIPTU over strike threat


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Sam Nolan, veteran socialist and trade unionist and long-standing Secretary of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions has posted this personal message on Facebook (14th March). I have commented on it below.

“Moments of crisis happen at certain stages of history. Such a moment is now upon the trade union movement. The threatened move by AER LINGUS to sue SIPTU for financial damages for a strike that did not take place is such a moment. This move is a threat to the future activity of every trade union in the country. There must be a sharp militant response from CONGRESS affiliated unions as well as a legal challenge. Labour in government must decide which class it represents.”

My comment:

There has been surprising little reaction from the unions, the left and even the blogosphere (or my sector of it) to the announcement that Aer Lingus was suing SIPTU over a strike that did not take place.

The action by Aer Lingus, for damages, breach of contract and, in at least one report I heard, conspiracy, has all the marks of the pre-1906 open season on trade unions. As the day wore on the need for someone authoritative in the labour movement to take a stand and make a clarion call was ever more pressing. It is no accident that it is Sam Nolan that has stepped forward and it is fitting and fortunate that it is he who has. Not only has he stood in the front line for decades but he has the respect and authority in the trade union movement to be taken seriously and to be heeded and followed.

When Sam Nolan says it – “Moments of crisis happen at certain stages of history. Such a moment is now upon the trade union movement” – you know it is not stock left rhetoric. It is not some hamburger merchant that is suing, it is the national airline, backed by the airport authority and also by the biggest anti-union outfit on the continent, the William Martin Murphy of 2014.

It is time for SIPTU and ICTU to fight before there is nothing left to fight for – or fight with. And fight with street mobilisation and industrial action, not just in the courts or with press statements which omit that the Labour Party is in government and, in this case, that the government is on the board of the union-busting company. I hope unions, union committees and Branch and Sector Committees can take up his call without delay and that, if there is a delay, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions can repeat its recurrent role of being the focus and the catalyst on crises facing the labour movement.


2 Responses

  1. Brendan Ogle

    March 18, 2014 11:59 am

    Hi Des, I agree that this could be a watershed moment. For me Aer Lingus and DAA smelled weakness when yet another ‘high level group’ was set up to look at the issue. As for the Trade Union nominee to this Group? Well the least said the better! Agreeing to this measure was a throw back to the partnership era which caused such damage to Unions and workers, but for some reason which too many in the movement continue to hanker for as a comfort blanket. There may well be forces in the Unions who will welcome this ‘threat’ to use against any workers hoping to use Industrial Action to defend themselves. The legal basis for the threat appears to be nebulous at best and don’t be surprised if it is simply leverage to be used by Aer Lingus/DAA when the ‘high level group’ comes up with the inevitable proposal to further cut workers pensions, at which point Union agreement will result in the legal ‘threat’ simply disappearing. One way or another it’s a bad day for Aer Lingus/DAA workers and I wish them luck in finding a way to hit back that puts Muellar and his right wing bully boys back in their place.

  2. BB

    March 23, 2014 5:44 pm

    I noticed that last Friday SIPTU’s National Executive Council voted to support future industrial action at the airport and also voted to fight any further legal action.

    Just picture the scene. I assume that the union will be summoned to court should it proceed with any proposed action. It will take legal advice, go there and inevitably pay any enormous costs and/or fines arising. Hence, no problem, it’s just membership fees! Union tops will do so because of this ‘sad reality’. I imagine there will no campaign against this unprecedented development; sadly so.

    Didn’t Pat Rabbitte attack the Industrial Relations Bill way back when he produced a pamphlet to warn of the dangers of implementing this law? It was short and sharp on these matters. Now, most likely, there will be zilch, nada, zero opposition from him and his ilk.