By Robert Cosgrave
Workers at four Dublin stores of the supermarket chain Iceland, organised in the Independent Workers’ Union (IWU), are due to go out on strike on Friday, 19 May. At the root of this dispute is the decision by the UK parent company to sell its 27 stores in the south of Ireland in February, a decision the workers were only informed of by text, which told them to go to work as usual the following day.
Since the takeover conditions have rapidly deteriorated for the workers. Already the store in Cabra has been closed. In the stores that remain open the IWU is reporting that workers are not being paid in full and in some cases not getting paid at all. Sick pay and holiday pay are also being cancelled. On top of this the company has forced workers to work in unbearable temperatures after turning off air conditioning in the stores. Unfortunately, the Health and Safety Authority did nothing when this was reported to them.
Despite the protests made by the IWU the new management has been entirely disinterested in addressing their complaints or engaging in any serious way. The decision to strike is likely to provide a rude awakening to them.
Race to the bottom
While it comes as no surprise that the new bosses are trying to use the takeover to attack terms and conditions – as seen for example the disputes at SK Biotek in Swords in 2019 and Cargotec in Dundalk in March of this year – the behaviour of the bosses here is particularly brazen and shows the acceleration of the race to the bottom on pay and conditions for already low-paid retail workers.
The bosses in this sector – who have been among the worst profiteers in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis – are viciously anti-union and are determined to grind out as much from their workers as they can get away with. The Socialist Party fully supports the actions of the Iceland workers in their fight against these attacks and will be joining workers at every picket. A victory for workers here can be the start of a fightback against the onslaught of attacks that retail workers have faced in recent years.
Strong militant pickets.
There should be strong militant pickets across the four stores to completely shut them down for the duration of the strike and convince delivery drivers and shoppers not to pass. It is essential, however, that the strike is broadened to draw into this fight the workers at the remaining stores in Dublin and across the country. The trade union movement should come out forcefully and support this strike and call on their members to show solidarity with the striking workers.
The bosses will be prepared to dig in for a prolonged struggle if necessary, so it is important to avoid isolation in this fight. The best tool that these workers have at their disposal is the potential power of solidarity from their fellow workers and the working-class communities.