Workers sit-in to demand unpaid wages from closed business. Owner allowed to simply walk away.
On Tuesday, 20th May, the staff of the “Paris Bakery” in Dublin showed up for work as usual, only to find themselves locked out of their workplace and owed at least 3 months in wages. So the workers got angry, got organised, got into the premises and started a sit-in.
The protesters are getting support from unions and politicians, with support from people in the form of food and drink, offers of work, and even live music. They have hung a banner commemorating the Lockout of 1913 – a major coup for workers rights in Dublin – on the front of the bakery, which is located in Moore Street, which was also historically a scene of resistance against the British occupying forces in 1916.
This is how resistance manifests in a post-colonial country like the Republic of Ireland. Like the other nations on the fringe of the EU, Greece and Spain, people have been brought to their knees by bankers and neoliberal politics and further punished by amoral austerity measures. But unlike Greece and Spain, major
demonstrations have not yet taken place in Ireland. Perhaps it is due to a tradition of emigration, where many leave to find a better future instead of staying at home to resist oppression. And the presences of megacorps like Google and Facebook, attracted by unique corporate tax laws, may give some false sense of security that is not present in Greece and Spain.
Nevertheless, paid employment is scarce in Ireland and workers are vulnerable to exploitation. The owners of the Paris Bakery took full advantage of this in order to make a profit, and continue to do so. Despite the support of unions, politicians, and workers rights organisations, the ex-employees of the “Paris Bakery” will most likely not get the wages owed to them. The owners refuse to engage with the workers and there is nothing to compel them to do so.
According to an Irish Congress of Trade Unions spokesman, “The problem lies with the fact that an ‘informal insolvency’ – where an employer ceases trading but does not wind up the business – is not covered by existing law and, as a consequence, workers have no rights. Employers can and do simply walk away.”
This is being referred to as a “legal loophole” by politicians and trade unionists. Thanks to this “loophole”, the owners of Paris Bakery are being permitted to steal from the mouths of their slaves in order to remain solvent. A loophole is a unintended exploit in the system, used to avoid the true intent of the system. But what happens if the “loophole” is the true intent of the system? Then the only way to fix the loophole is to fix the system, like the participants of the first Dublin Lockout. It’s time for another 1913.
– by Sile Nagig
(pix by Paris Bakery Workers & Workers Solidarity Movement)