A savage attack on working people
Those of us thinking through worst case scenarios following the next general election would do well to look across the Irish Sea at the events taking place in the Irish Republic.
I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days last week with David Begg and Jack O’Connor of ICTU who did a brilliant job in illustrating the devastating impact that Brian Cowen’s government is inflicting on working people and trade unions through its policy of immediate and severe cuts in public spending.
The current Irish government has wedded itself to deep public sector cuts, largely funded through attacks on public sector workers’ pay and pensions. A move motivated, it seems, as much by an attempt to cut workers pay as a devaluation strategy as by deficit reduction. All of this implemented with blanket support from a compliant media, implacably hostile to trade unions.
According to ICTU this amounts to nothing less than “a savage attack on working people” which will “only stimulate unemployment”.
Through turning its back on dialogue with the Irish trade unions, the government has effectively brought to an end over 20 years of social partnership arrangements. In the absence of partnership, ICTU’s strength must now be drawn exclusively from its campaigning and organising work.
Grim times but the ICTU leadership see opportunity in the situation, with campaigns there to be won. We wish David and his colleagues all the best and hope that we continue to learn from each other as we potentially face similar challenges in coming years.