To get an idea of how some Irish Ferries' employees have been treated by their employer in recent times read the follow excerpt from All at sea by Steve Morris of The Guardian:
The operation was organised with military precision. As the two ships neared port, groups of men quietly slipped into the vessels' bathrooms and swapped their civilian clothes for dark uniforms and padded jackets. Back out on deck, they took up their pre-arranged positions. It was coolly announced over the Tannoys that these men in dark uniforms would henceforth be in charge of security on the vessels.
Sound quite sinister? Read on...
Believing the ships under attack, some crew members raced for cover; one group of officers sealed themselves into a secure engine control room. The officers were still there last night, a week on, refusing to budge. Both ships have now effectively been taken hostage by their crews.
And some more...
The raid, it turned out, was no act of modern piracy; neither was it a terrorist attack. In was, in fact, a hijack of a very different nature, the latest, extraordinary, chapter in a bitter industrial dispute on the Irish Sea.
According to the article, what really happened is that Irish Ferries (runs ships between Britain and Ireland) wants rid of 543 of its workers. It wants to replace them with cheaper workers, mainly from eastern Europe, and for pretty obvious reasons, the existing workers, and those concerned with the import of cheap labour from overseas, do not think it is such a great idea. The security guards were smuggled on board the ships to make sure that the handover to the new, cheaper crew went smoothly.
The reason behind the dispute, if we are to believe Irish Ferries' chief executive, Eamonn Rothwell, is summarised in the following quote: "It's about the right of freight and passenger customers - and the Irish tourist industry - to low-fare carriers on the Irish Sea." The main question to come from this is: are customer "rights" more important than worker's rights? However, who exactly is defining customer rights? The customer or the corporation? I sense it's the latter.