Extracts from the Annual Reports

Extracts from Irish Labour Party and Trades Union Congress on August 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th, 1923 in the Mansion House, Dublin

On the State of the Country

From the Executive Report: In view of the improved conditions of affairs and the state of peace which appears now to have been entered upon, we do not think it advisable to recount in detail the various activities of the Executive, arising out of the strife and warfare of the last year. We feel that the tragedies that would be recalled by recounting the many activities of the Executive in these matters would tend to excite antipathies and vengeful feelings. We therefore leave these questions untouched in this report.

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On the Railwaymen and the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union

From the Executive Report: In this case we append a copy of the report of the Sub-Committee, appointed to hear the case, which was subsequently adopted by the National Executive: The Committee appointed by the National Executive— Messrs L J Duffy (in the Chair), M Somerville, T J O’Connell, D Cullen and Thomas Johnson, Secretary—met representatives of both Unions on March 22nd, 1923…

The cause of the dispute arose out of the fact that two men in particular (Messrs Noonan and Murphy) who were locked-out at the time of the dock dispute with the L&NWR were unable to obtain employment in jobs controlled by the IT&GWU. Noonan, who was an unemployed checker, obtained employment at Messrs Wordie’s, and Murphy at Goulding’s Chemical Works. Both had clear cards in the NUR. The NUR contended that, having cards of any Trade Union, men should be entitled to obtain work anywhere.

The IT&GWU argued that members of their own Union involved in the same dispute were not permitted to take up work in outside firms, and that their Admission Committee were not prepared to permit new men into those jobs while men properly belonging to the job were actually unemployed.

Other cases in certain other jobs were cited by the NUR in proof of their contention that the IT&GWU were not willing to permit their members to obtain employment in jobs controlled by the latter Union.

In our opinion the case advanced by the NUR falls under two heads: (a) That the IT&GWU should have permitted Messrs Noonan and Murphy, because they possessed NUR cards, to obtain employment at Wordie’s and Goulding’s respectively, or alternatively that they should be permitted to continue at work and be accepted on transfer by the IT&GWU, and (b) that any man with a Union card should be free to work any job, whether his card was issued by the Union controlling the job or not.

We have given careful attention to both claims. In respect of the case made on behalf of the two men, Noonan and Murphy, we are satisfied that the IT&GWU, having prevented their own members who were involved in the L&NWR dispute taking up outside jobs, had no alternative but prevent members of other Unions, locked out because of this dock dispute, taking up other jobs. No Union involved in a similar dispute would have acted otherwise in the circumstances.

To act otherwise would have been fatal, and if it resulted in a stampede amongst the members of its own Union, a likely contingency, would have disastrous effects upon the morale of the men and prejudice their chances of success in their dispute. We, therefore, hold the IT&GWU were fully justified in preventing the men in question taking up work in both Wordie’s and Goulding’s.

As regards the general principle raised in the course of the proceedings … we must in present circumstances hold with the IT&GWU. We have not reached a stage, and are not likely to for some time, when a Union can safely permit everybody presenting any Union card to take up a job anywhere. If the principle was generally admitted it would, in existing circumstances, inflict great hardship on many groups of workers who have, as the result of much sacrifice, obtained a standard of life that they consider essential. It would periodically flood certain callings with workers from other less favourable employments. Many men would prefer to reap the advantages of other people’s sacrifice than struggle to raise the status of their own employment. Men who are unwilling to pay more than a few pence a week to their own Union would avail of the claim of the NUR to billet themselves on the efforts of their less selfish comrades, who have, at much personal sacrifice and as the result of great cost to themselves, maintained a fighting Union. For these reasons, we cannot agree that any Trade Union card should afford access to any and every Union job.
L. J. DUFFY, Chairman.

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On International Relations

From the Executive Report: The National Executive decided in October, 1922, to subscribe to the publications of the International Labour Office. These have been found to be of very great value as a source of information on Labour matters in other countries, and as they now contain references to Irish Labour matters and the activities of our own organiza-tion they serve to emphasize abroad the separate statehood of the Saorstat.

Representations were also made to the Government as to the desirabilty of the Free State affiliating to the International Labour Office quite apart from any question of membership of the League of Nations.

It may be explained that the International Labour Office was set up by the Paris Conference at the conclusion of the European War. Its funds are supplied by the League of Nations, but it is independent in its working, and membership is open to States which are not members of the League—Germany, for example, is a member of the International Labour Office. The Office works through International Conferences of delegates representing the Governments, employers’ associations, and workers’ organizations of the member-states, and has a perma-nent Governing Body and a Headquarters with an expert staff at Geneva, Switzerland. Its function is to make inquiries and distribute information as to labour legislation and condi-tions of work in all the countries of the world, and to make recommendations for ratification by the member-states with a view to securing a uniformly high minimum level of legislation and administration in respect of labour conditions.

Great Britain

Cordial relations have been maintained with the Labour movement in Great Britain. A depu-tation from the British Labour Party, consisting of Messrs Arthur Greenwood, MP, and J Muir, MP, came to Dublin in April, 1923, in order to interview the Government in the matter of the deportation of prisoners from Great Britain, and were afforded all the assistance we were in a position to give.

A regular exchange of information is maintained with the Joint Research and Information Department of the Labour Party and Trade Union Congress, and with the Labour Research Department, and it is desired to record appreciation of the assistance these bodies have giv-en.

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The Attack on Wages

The following special Resolution was moved:

‘That this Congress notes the many attacks now being made by employers on sec-tions of the Irish working-class, and urges upon all Trade Unionists the vital ne-cessity of resisting these attempts to lower the standard of life of the Irish work-ers.’

MR F MCCARTHY (IT&GWU, Dublin) moving the Resolution said that the wording of it, in view of present circumstances, was rather mild. He would dwell upon two words in it, the “vital necessity.” It was hardly necessary to ask Congress to think on on the subject of the Resolution at all. Every delegate ought to be aware that a big industrial war had been launched. They of the Transport Union were engaged in the fight. They had definite knowledge that this fight was to be brought about in the near future. Many people outside imagined that there were a split in the Transport Union. He told them that there was no split.

There may be a difference of opinion between some of their members. He spoke as a mem-ber of the Executive of the Union when he said that so far as the rank and file of the Union was
concerned they were united and strong and stood solid behind the Executive. Within the past day or two Congress had been disturbed by the action of some members of the Union. He would make no reference to the action on Monday of a few misguided men. That had been repudiated by Miss Moloney. A great many of those who “demonstrated” outside the Man-sion House had no idea that they were offering any insult to the Labour Movement, as they did. The bulk of those men were led by a few cranks and did not think for themselves. He wanted to remove from the minds of the delegates the idea that the attack showed that there was any split or lack of solidarity in the ranks of the workers.

MR SEAN BYRNE (IT&GWU, Swords) seconded the motion. He said that he thought that the attention of Congress should be drawn to the main attack that took place on the Quays of
Dublin—the attack on the working hours, not on wages. The workers should concentrate on the attack upon the hours of work.

If they allowed the Dublin dockers to go back to the 10 hours’ day, the builders and others would go back and it would be 10 or 12 hours. That was what the shippers would go back to. “We should be more solid than we are,” said Mr Byrne, “we do not take into consideration, as we ought to do, attacks upon other Unions. I believe that we should take the strong in-dustrial action that was taken in Scandinavia some years ago. I think we are not revolu-tionary enough. The bosses take advantage of our differences, and they attack us. If we go down in the fight it won’t be we that will stink in the nostrils of the people, but a certain gentleman. I can state without fear of contradiction that the men who led the men yesterday were not dockers. The two Colgans are not dockers, and they are earning their living by run-ning a “house game”. (Bingo)

The resolution was passed.

Click here to launch page 97 the 1923 Annual Report (PDF)