By Jim Morahan
THE Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) was yesterday urged to withdraw from national pay talks as anger increases over the jailing of three Dublin construction workers.
The trade union movement was also called on to organise a national stoppage to have the men released.
Andrew Clarke, of Cromlech Fields, Ballybrack; Keith Kelly, of Ashlawn Park, Ballybrack, and William McClurg, of Sallynoggin, were sent to prison last Friday for defying a High Court order not to beset, watch or picket a Ballybrack site where Collen Construction is building 77 local authority houses.
The trio claim Collen Construction and its subcontractors refused to employ local workers and trade union members.
Independent TD Séamus Healy from Tipperary South, who attended the demonstration, suggested that ICTU organises a national stoppage "to get the lads out of jail."
A few hundred construction colleagues, family members and other supporters took part in the protest from the city centre to Mountjoy Prison, where messages from the jailed Ballybrack Three were read to the crowd. Near Parnell Square, in front of a Collen Construction site, there were harsh words levelled at the company for taking the High Court injunction.
Dublin Council of Trade Unions veteran Des Bonass advised the trade union movement not to go into partnership with those who would "do everything" to destroy the movement.
Calling on ICTU to pull out of the national pay discussions, he said they should make an issue of the jailing of the three men with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins said he had challenged Mr Ahern in the Dáil over the fact that 120,000 construction workers were being "criminally deprived" by bosses who failed to give them their pension rights.
Yet not one developer or construction boss had spend as much as one day in jail - unlike the three bricklayers who were dragged to the High Court and then to Mountjoy for seeking their rights. Mr Higgins said it was necessary to "root out the black economy" and hit the construction bosses with industrial action - the "one language they understand".
Further protests are planned at Collen sites, as well as a major demonstration in Dun Laoghaire next Saturday, focused on Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council which contracted Collen for the public development in Ballybrack. A public meeting has been organised by the People Before Profit Alliance in Cassidy’s Hotel, Cavendish Row, Dublin tomorrow evening.