College News

Crossing the picket line: why students should be aware of the effects

In light of the recent strikes that took place in several Tesco stores across the country last month and the Bus Eireann strikes that began last Friday, it is important to stress the reasons why people should obey the picket lines formed by striking workers.
Last month, workers striking at the Tesco branch in Drumcondra had to plead with students of St. Patrick’s college, located straight across the road, not to cross the picket line until the strike had ended as an act of solidarity.
The message that was sent to students in an email by Manus McLoughlin, Vice President for Education and Placement, called for students to show support for the strike as student nurses and teachers may find themselves in the same situation later on in their careers.
“As a Union we have students who experience the necessity of strike action and the need for the public’s solidarity in order to make that action effective. For many students such as our own nurses and teacher’s industrial action is a core part of defending their livelihoods,’’ read the email.
I spoke to one Tesco worker on the picket line that day who said: ’We are trying to stop students from entering the store to explain to them why we are on the picket line.”
“Once we have explained they can make an informed decision to enter the store or not. We’re hoping they’ll show their support for us because as student teachers, they may find themselves having to strike in the future.” he continued.
While the message was aimed at students of DCU and St. Patrick’s college Drumcondra, it is important to point out that a small minority of students crossed the picket line while many showed support for the strike.
Another example of showing solidarity when it comes to not crossing a picket line was seen last Friday when Bus Eireann workers began striking on Thursday at 12 midnight.
The following day in joint rail and bus depots, Irish Rail workers showed support for the striking Bus Eireann workers by choosing not to cross their picket line, resulting in train routes being affected throughout the day.
Thousands of people’s travel plans were affected on Friday with some student’s and workers complaining that they could not get home from college and work for the weekend.
While the strikes may have caused plenty of disruption leaving many people upset and unhappy with the rail and bus service, we must remember that the majority of workers do not want to go on strike but it is a last resort.
The reason for last month’s Tesco strike was that Tesco wants to move 250 staff recruited before 1996 onto less favorable contracts but the change would affect workers in terms of both pay and conditions.
“If we let them win this battle over 250 workers contracts, which is a small minority, they’ll be coming for the rest of us,” said one worker.
This shows that workers do not choose to go on strike out of the blue. It is a result of days and weeks of failed negotiations between companies and trade unions that force workers to unite and ask the public for their help and support in the strike.
So the next time you see a picket line, approach the workers, hear their stories, make an informed decision on whether you want to cross it or not and most importantly, respect the workers and their livelihoods. For one day, you might find yourself in the same situation.
Photo courtesy of Sinn Féin on Flickr