Leading Irish Officials suspended by Transport and General Workers' Union - An attack against trade union democracy

Late on the afternoon of Tuesday 26 June, the Irish Regional secretary and regional organiser of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers' Union were suspended from office by Bill Morris, general secretary of the TGWU.

The two officials - Mick O' Reilly and Eugene McGlone - were suspended with no consultation with the General Executive Council or the Irish Regional Committee. No reason was given by Brother Morris for this unprecedented action, .

The Irish Regional Committee is profoundly shocked and disturbed by these actions.

It should be pointed out that Michael O' Reilly was democratically elected by the General Executive Council of the TGWU, and both he and Eugene McGlone have long records of loyal service in the union. Eugene McGlone is currently the chairperson of the NITUC.

The reasons for this action have not been given. However, in the view of some of the members of the Regional Committee, this episode is clearly linked to the consistent opposition of the Irish Region to the social contract in the Republic of Ireland.

The timing of the operation is significant. At the meeting of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, due to take place next week, our Region was to present a resolution opposing the social contract, with good prospects of obtaining a majority. This resolution was to be presented by Brothers McGlone and O'Reilly. Owing to the suspensions, this might not now be possible.

We have reason to believe that political pressure from the very highest level has been brought to bear on Bill Morris to instigate these proceedings. The Irish government would have been seriously embarrassed if the aforementioned resolution had been passed, and has taken steps - with the support of certain leading politicians in London - to silence the opposition.

The attempt to silence the opposition by such means will not succeed. The workers are not prepared to accept the holding down of wages while prices and profits rocket. The purpose of trade unions is to defend the workers, not to defend profit margins.

We demand that the TGWU leadership perform the functions for which they were elected, as we have always done in Ireland - i.e. to defend the interests of working people and uphold trade union democracy.

Our opposition to the social contract remains total and implacable. We will not be intimidated or silenced by these, or any other, measures. The TGWU has always prided itself on being a campaigning union. We have the right and duty to represent our membership, and this is just what we intend to do.

These measures have no legality and cannot be accepted. They are a violation of internal democracy and natural justice, and will be vigorously contested. Bill Morris is not even a member of the ICTU yet by his actions he is interfering in the internal affairs of the ICTU. Brothers McGlone and O'Reilly enjoy the wholehearted backing of the Regional Committee and the membership in Ireland.

The imposition of such measures is particularly harmful in Northern Ireland, because it threatens to destabilise a major and long-established trade union which is non-sectarian and has long been a force for the unity of working people in this troubled land. Bill Morris and the TGWU leadership should be helping to strengthen the trade union movement in Northen Ireland, and not making our work more difficult.

We are not seeking confrontation, only elementary justice. We appeal to the membership of the TGWU in the whole of Britain to back us and demand the immediate rescinding of these unjust measures which, we believe, establish a dangerous precedent for our union and place a question mark over trade union democracy.

We ask you to raise this matter in every District Committe, Regional Committe, branch and shop stewards' committee, and to contact the Irish Regional Committee. Together we must make the union leadership see reason and abandon these senseless measures which can only serve to weaken and divide our union - a situation that will benefit only the enemies of organised Labour.

  • For the immediate re-instatement of Bros. McGlone and O'Reilly
  • Defend union democracy
  • Let us unite to build a campaigning and democratic TGWU that fights for the interests of all working people.