Imagine being on a ship sailing from France to Ireland with a young child…
Add to that the complication that the child has measles, that you have been delayed boarding, you are tired and keen to get home after holiday.
Then put that situation into the middle of a vicious protracted industrial dispute that seems to be getting more intense by the day. You are now a pawn in the battle between management and trade union, and there is no way you can turn round or get off the ship.
You are prisonner at sea approaching a hostile port called Rosslare. So hostile that the ship diverts to Dublin City port. You are trapped and feeling abused. You curse both sides.
You wish someone told you what was going on, so that you could have put your children and wife on a plane home. you could have driven to Calais and got back that way, avoiding the front line.
As a citizen of Ireland, you imagine that your government might protect you from such an experience. You don’t know who to trust. All the interested parties are exactly that: interested parties who don’t have your interest at heart.
What is the government up to?
I’ve seen and heard ministers interviewed about this dispute between “Irish Ferries” and SIBTU (trade union representing the officers and crew on board).
I expected the government to say something like: this is an unfortunate dispute; it is hurting everyone (staff, company, the economy, the reputation of Ireland…); the two parties should settle this asap; it is not for us to take sides but to represent the wider public interest.
Instead the government has taken sides. The ministers and taoiseach have, of course, said that this is a terrible dispute, that it is important that it be settled soon.
But they have weighed in with powerful criticism of the tactics adopted by management. So strong has been their criticism of Irish Ferries management that I feel they have stepped over the mark and become advocates for one side.
This is rank cowardice and smells of electioneering, not wanting to be seen as impartial. There are probably votes in preventing themselves being outflanked by Labour & the left.
This is a failure by government to hold the ring between competing parties. If government doesn’t play this role, who does?
It is easy to criticise company management: they have adopted high-risk tactics, sending security staff on board (”to protect staff and assets”), sending new staff in to familiarise themselves with the ship (”in order to be in a position to operate the ship”). There is no agreed plan for the transition to a new regime. Both sides are still at war. No truce.
I think it is the responsibility of trade union and management to make a truce and formulate a transition plan. If they don’t do that, the business doesn’t deserve to continue. Competitors will pick up the business. You can’t have a business at war with itself.
The government is disgracing itself. The history of relations between management and trade union is relevant: it has led to the current war. There are desperate elements on both sides. Meanwhile, no profits being made; no returns for shareholders, no customers winning.
Someone, please talk sense into all sides.