Most of Monday night’s council meeting was taken up with arguments around the future of Temple Bar Cultural Trust. But by far the more interesting discussion for the rest of the meeting was around an emergency motion submitted by People Before Profit Councillors Pat Dunne, myself Brid Smith and Independent Councillor Ciaran Perry.
The motion, calling on management not to proceed with the sale of the bin collection service to private companies, was put before the council because on Friday last bin workers received a letter from Dublin City Council informing them they would be re-deployed, giving them one month to chose an option of where to and finally thanking them for their years of hard work.
I met an old friend on my way into the council meeting who has given 31 years of service to DCC waste management, most of it driving bin lorries. He was so offended by the one line of thanks and wishing him the best for the future contained in that letter. Perfectly understandable when his life’s labour can be written off so easily and sold to the highest bidder to make vast profits.
And this is the core of the issue. Once a public service is commodified, when people have to pay again for its delivery (having already paid their taxes), when the market is open to competition, then inevitably it leads to privatisation of that service.
It’s not rocket science that private operators do not compete with the public service on a level playing field. They drive down the wages and conditions of their workers in order to maximise their profits. They seldom recognise trade unions. They start out charging very low rates to the consumer only to drive them dramatically upwards once they have control over the service. They compete visciously with each other. And they do not deliver on the waiver scheme for poorer families. This is one thing when selling ice cream or cars. But when providing an essential service like waste management it is unacceptable and uncontrollable. All of this we predicated when we first issued leaflets opposing bin taxes ten years ago.
While the debate in the council chambers was taking place I had to pinch myself several times after each Fianna Fail councillor spoke and displayed their outrage and radicalism. It was incredible that a political party who were in power when bin taxes were introduced, who were in power when the waste management act gave control of the service to the City Manager and took it from the hands of those elected to serve the people and who were in power when 24 activists were jailed for opposing the bin taxes and none of the same party politicans or their cronies were before the courts for their dodgy dealings – that they could speak so blatantly out of both sides of their mouths.
Fine Gael surprise surprise - did not support the motion.
So it was overwhelming adopted with support from the Labour Party, Sinn Fein, People Before Profit, Independents and the tricky Fianna Failers.
But they are not the only tricky party to vote for it. Labour fully endorsed it and added some useful amendments. But the question to them is how they can continue to support a government who are driving the privatisation agenda, the bank bail out terms, the austerity measures, the sale of public assets, despite promising exactly the opposite to those who elected them.
We urgently need to mobilise our collective strength both in the workplaces and in the communities to resist this agenda. Councillors can act as a voice for workers and communities they represent but we don’t have the power to prevent the sell off of the bin service. Neither do we have control over water which will also be privatised in this way – the city manager has executive power in this area also. So as three or four different bin companies race up and down your estate, putting workers under pressure to deliver more producitivity, denying access to a waiver scheme for poorer families and pushing up costs.
Remember this – we can fight this system. There are more of us and than there are of all political parties, managers, bankers, IMF/EU executives and the rest put together. But we have to get organised and hit the streets.
Let’s take some Greek lessons and follow the example of those people across the globe who are resisting – in Wall Street, in Egypt, in Spain, in Britain, in Greece and beyond and get out to join the ENOUGH IS ENOUGH protest Saturday 15 October 1pm Parnell Square.