ON December 6th, 1979, I started as a junior official for the Bar Workers’ Union (Banba Hall) 20 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. On August 21st, 2020, nearly 41 years later I will clock out as General Secretary of Mandate Trade Union, Cavendish Row, Parnell Square, Dublin 1.
To all of the union members I have known, the shop stewards and the activists who trained and assisted me, I would like to sincerely thank you for your friendship and comradeship. You taught me about life, about work, about decency and about struggle.
I have, on many occasions, been in awe of workers who stepped up to the plate at times of struggle and conflict, the immense bravery displayed by those who had little to lose but everything to lose.
My trade unionism was learned in the field with workers who believed in justice, fairness, a better society and who understood that these could only be achieved by collective struggle in a union.
While we may not always have agreed on tactics, we were always on the same side. Personally I turned up for every fixture, played every game, never feigned injury and while we might not have won every game I believe we always gave our best.
Yes, I am sure mistakes were made and possibly we could have achieved more, but I can honestly look back in the mirror of life and say that we gave it our all. For those who played on the same team and displayed the same commitment and values, I truly thank you for your solidarity.
It has been a privilege to have worked for workers – something which we should never forget nor take for granted. We must never betray the trust that union members place in us as paid officials. We have but one responsibility – to be there when we are needed.
Retail and bar workers and their Mandate Trade Union face a very uncertain and challenging future. Pressure on our sectors and on the quality of jobs is being exerted from many quarters – Covid-19; Brexit; online shopping; and, of course, unscrupulous and exploitative employers.
We on the workers’ side are at a crossroads, we must choose the right route. We need to plan to protect workers, their families and their communities, and we can only achieve this through strong trade unions and collective action when necessary.
Together we are strong, so we need to organise and mobilise. Every member of Mandate has a responsibility – not only to themselves but to their fellow workers, their families and their class – to ensure that every retail and bar worker is in the union.
It is not the job of someone else to organise, it is all our responsibility and only when workers and union officials understand this concept and the power of collective organising, can we truly challenge for decency and justice at work and in society. You may be aware that Gerry Light will take over as General Secretary and I wish Gerry all the best for the future. His background as a grocery worker and shop steward in Quinnsworth will stand him well. He has also put in the hard miles and never missed a game. For that reason, and many more, he is best placed to lead Mandate Trade Union during these uncertain times.
While my race is run, there are many more hard races facing retail and bar staff – together you can win.
I thank you again and now clock out.