The Corner

A Labor Strike in the Emerald Isle

Galway, Ireland – Civil servants in the Republic of Ireland are planning a one-day strike across the country to protest the government’s plan to cut their salaries.

From the Irish Times:

Senior civil servants have voted to join the planned national public sector strike scheduled for next Tuesday, November 24th.

In what is seen as a hardening of attitudes, members of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants (AHCPS), which represents principal officers and assistant principal officers as well as other grades such as prison governors and court registrars, yesterday voted by 60 per cent to 40 per cent to take part.

The move represents an effective reversal of a decision taken by the union last March when members voted by a similar margin not to participate in industrial action planned at that stage.

The strike includes, as I found out in class yesterday, university faculty at all of Ireland’s public universities. Here at the National University of Ireland in Galway, practically all of our November 24 classes are cancelled. There are even rumors that the library will be closed, which practically renders that day useless for working on final papers. The faculty is well organized, but their union did not make this decision unanimously. One of my lecturers, a union member who hinted in class that she might be against the strike, said that a good one-third of the union voted against the strike.

In fact, the one-day “strike” is more a symbolic protest than a call to action, and I doubt it will do much good. Ireland’s economy is in a pretty bad state, and tax revenues are down by 17 percent. The strike is receiving hardly any newspaper coverage, which may reflect a general feeling that it will be ineffective. But regardless of the strike’s success, it will cause a huge work stoppage.

This situation has given me a newfound appreciation for the relative weakness of organized labor in the United States. Even with their preferred candidate in the White House, unions still aren’t as powerful in America as they are in Western Europe. When they have to resort to physically attacking their political opponents, it’s an indication that they don’t have us by the collar.

– Michael Warren, a former Collegiate Network intern at National Review, studies economics and history at Vanderbilt University and blogs at Vandy Right.