Sacked T&G officials win support of full-time officers

by David Granville

THE CAMPAIGN to secure the reinstatement of two sacked Irish trade union officials received a major boost in July when full-time officers of the Transport and General Workers Union (T&G) voted by a large majority to take strike action in support of the men's call for reinstatement.

The 70 per cent vote for strike action is a huge embarrassment for the union's general secretary Bill Morris, who is looking increasingly isolated over what supporters of the two dismissed officials, Mick O'Reilly and Eugene McGlone, see as Morris's personal crusade to rid himself, and the union, of two troublesome left-wingers.

Apparently unaware of any sense of irony, Morris is insisting that the strike threat is an attempt to intimidate the employer.

The general secretary and his supporters received a further blow in June with the election of Tony Woodley to the post of T&G deputy general secretary. Woodley, who is also on the left of the union, has long been a strong supporter of the dismissed officials.

Former Irish secretary of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union Mick O'Reilly and his Belfast-based deputy, Eugene McGlone, were sacked by Morris in April following suspension and lengthy disciplinary proceedings. O'Reilly had been the first ever twenty-six county-based secretary of the T&G's Irish region.

Both men, who were convinced from the start that the investigation and disciplinary procedures were only ever going to lead to their dismissal, were accused by Morris of "insubordination", "serious negligence and gross dereliction of duty", "abuse of authority and power" and of being incapable of carrying out their union duties.

They have consistently denied the charges, which they continue to insist have no basis. Instead they point to political differences between the London-based leadership of the union and its Irish region as the root cause of the investigation and action against them.

Although the trigger for disciplinary proceedings appears to have been the Irish region's decision to recruit members of the Irish Locomotive Drivers' Association (ILDA), Reilly and McGlone believe that they are the victims of a political coup engineered by the union's London-based leadership, which is known to have been unhappy with their left-wing stance on a range of issues.

Apart from securing the enmity of the British-based union leadership, the ATGWU's opposition to social partnership in the twenty-six counties and the Nice Treaty are also understood to have angered the Ahern and Blair governments, and senior figures within the rabidly pro-EU/social partnership British TUC.

The sacked officials' appeal, which began in July, now looks set to drag on until at least early September. However, if, as seems likely, the union's full-time officers vote again for strike action in a second 'confirming' ballot, the union could soon be plunged into turmoil -- something that neither side will find desirable.

Despite a leftward shift within the union, the threat of strike action by T&G officers, escalating costs of the drawn-out disciplinary and appeal procedures and mounting support from rank-and-file members, it is not expected that the general secretary is about to give up his fight to confirm the men's dismissal.

Even so, supporters of the two officials are increasingly optimistic. Commenting on recent developemnts O'Reilly adviser Kevin McCorry stressed that there had been a "sea change" in levels of support, especially from within the union's London HQ, where the disciplinary and appeal proceedings have been taking place.

"For the first time since these proceedings began, there is a glimmer of hope that the dismissals can be overturned and that the two men will be allowed to go back to their jobs of defending the interests of T&G members throughout Ireland.

"The support of ordinary union members and full-time union officers, on both sides of the Irish Sea, has been absolutely magnificent," he said.

Further information about the case and the campaign to reinstate the two sacked officials can be found at

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This document was last modified by Chris Croome on 2009-05-17 13:29:45.
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