GMC Pickets Rise Again – And Fall Again

Workers on the GMC Strike Picket

Pickets rose again at the GMC depots Thursday. They continued today and will continue Monday. But normal work resumes Tuesday as SIPTU gives the dispute to Labour Court to decide.

People Before Profit visited pickets and workers said that GMC bosses had changed aspects of a deal they’d come to and voted on after the fact. This was the reason for the strike.

GMC’s surprise rollback on the agreement would have seen some workers gaining nothing more than 3 euros a day in this Cost of Living Crisis which has no parallels for a generation.

‘I’ve worked here for 20 years without a single pay raise.’ said one worker. Another said he had been in GMC for over 15 years and only saw one raise: ‘And I had to completely change jobs to get that.’

GMC is a the main subcontractor to Gas Neworks Ireland. Gas Networks Ireland is run by Ervia, the state owned utilities company which also operates Uisce Éireann (Irish Water). One of the aspects of the deal on GMC’s wish list is to see their GMC gas workers ‘finishing over’ jobs for both Gas Networks Ireland and Uisce Éireann. Workers know would lead to immediate safety issues. It’s also a major change to their contract and well outside their current work practice. Workers started talking with fellow union members Gas Neworks Ireland when negotiations began to break down.

‘Bosses at Gas Networks Ireland tried to say you know “How GMC operates is nothing to do with us’. But look at the dark blue letters on our trucks.’ said a worker pointing to 1 of the 6 vans lined up on the picket to deal with emergency gas leaks ‘That’s as close to “black and white” as you’ll get.’

Strikers point out the clear relationship between state-owned Gas Networks Ireland and their employer.

SIPTU has applied to the Labour Court, now that the Workplace Relations Commission’s conciliation services failed.

Later today a video circulated stating that shop stewards from the main sites had agreed to stop the pickets this coming Monday evening after a final strike day (25/9/23). SIPTU will return members to work Tuesday because GMC bosses have agreed to accept whatever judgement the Labour Court decides on the following Monday (2/10/23).

What forced the bosses was strike action and showing that workers could push SIPTU officials to (potentially) grow the strike and might (tantalisingly) break with the 1990s-style partnership approach that SIPTU officials prefer and promote when dealing with owners and management.

Well done to these workers on demanding strike action and demanding to keep it up on Monday and winning that fight. GMC has been evading a pay rises for its outdoor workforce for 17 years according to workers. It’s time workers stood up for each other.

Under an unprecedended Cost of Living Crisis these workers are demanding and using the strike to get the pay rises they need to pay for the greed at the top of society.

Workers said they back the Cost of Living Crisis March on the Saturday 7th of October at 1pm. ‘Let’s wake them up.’

If they get little from the Labour Court it will be a hard lesson to workers everywhere that the smart thing is to stay on the pickets, extend the strikes, and grow them.

Get out on Monday and support the GMC Strikers.*

*Correction 2/10/2023

Originally this article incorrectly noted the following:

The Labour Court decision is binding and will virtually prohibit further official strike action. So the Labour Court means workers won’t really be able to use the power they’ve shown these last two weeks after Monday.

Labour Court decisions in individual rights cases are binding, the above statement is incorrect because it is an industrial relations case.
A Labour Court decision in an industrial relations case, like GMC, require voluntary acceptance and action from the employers and the workers.
Workers noted the distinction and pointed out that SIPTU have promised that they will get a SIPTU vote on whether to accept the Labour Court’s decision or reject it and return to the pickets.

Striking workers at Daisy Hill Hospital show their solidarity with the GMC Strikers as Members of NIPSA, Unite and Unison. People Before Profit picket supporter Marc holds the GMC workers’ union flag. Over 30,000 workers were on strike today with them.