The period of Irish history from the 1880's to the 1920's defined and divided politics including socialist politics, on the island for the rest of the century. The most militant workers struggles occurred in the second half of that period, north and south, concentrated in the last five years. In terms of working class struggle the periods of militancy of northern and southern workers coincide. Yet the working class was divided and these struggles remained almost completely isolated from each other.
The Liverpool dockers strike ended January 1998 but on April 7th the main docks company in Australia (Patricks) sacked its entire workforce of 1,400. At the same time hundreds of security guards, with dogs, flooded onto 17 different dock locations around Australia, resulting in at least one worker being injured. Some arrived by boat and were described by one witness as behaving like Commandos as they leapt ashore.
Almost half a million workers went on strike, including almost all industrial workers and most workers in transport and building. It was so powerful that the police and other emergency services had to ask the unions whenever they needed petrol.
The strike wave that rocked France in the closing month of 1995 is yet another example of the great fighting spirit of the French working class. Yet when we look at the causes of the strike and the relative weakness of French workplace organisation the question that emerges is 'if they can do it, why can't we'?
Workers at the Irish Glass Bottle plant in Ringsend have been in occupation of the plant for the last couple of months (July 2002). The plant is closing, making some 375 workers redundant and the company is refusing to pay redundancy at the level recommended by the Labour Relations Commission of, five weeks pay for every years service. It wants to only pay 10% of this level, or half a week for every year.