Reject Public Sector Cuts: for a 24 Hour Public Sector General Strike.

Brendan Howlin and Michael Noonan

They may call it Haddington Road, but it could just as well be called the Slippery Slope. After the trade unions overwhelmingly rejected the original Croke Park 2 proposals, on the surface these new proposals may look slightly less Draconian, but in essence they are more the less the same as the original ones. The proposals include extensions on the distances people can be redeployed, longer hours, cuts in pay for newly qualified nurses and cuts to teacher’s allowances, as well as alterations on overtime payments. If they get away with this, what will come after?

It is evident that the coalition weren’t anticipating their original proposals to be rejected so decisively. The opposition was overwhelming from the public sector workers. The situation has changed quite radically from the position in 2010 when the bigger unions were able to force the original Croke Park Deal through. The government’s attempt to face down the unions by imposing legislation can serve to raise the temperature in the public sector by a few degrees, but while many workers will be angered by the threat contained in the legislation, sections of the trade union bureaucracy appear to have been swayed.

SIPTU have announced that they will recommend the deal to their members,  but the teachers unions ASTI and TUI have said that they will not ballot on the proposals as they are so similar to the original, rejected, plans.  IFUT is to challenge the proposals in court, while the IMO and INTO have published details of the individual deals they have been offered. The Government and the Labour Relations Commission seem keen to divide the opposition, while relying on the more trade union leaders to retreat in the face of the legislation; the very badly named: Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013.

For public sector workers, these new “Emergency Measures” are simply an extension of the long list of emergency budgets, pension levies and sacrifices in “the public interest”, that have been imposed since the financial crash. Whose “public interest” would that be? On past experience we can only assume this refers to the “public interest” of the bankers and the speculators, the same cabal of profiteers and gombeen men whose greed and dubious shenanigans contributed in large measure to the enormous bubble of speculation in Ireland.

The capitalist crisis has impacted dramatically on Ireland, underlining the vulnerability of the state to depressed trade conditions and to increased transport costs in particular. But that is no comfort at all to working class people. We have argued also that there is no artificial divide between the public and private sector workers in Ireland. Not only are thousands of private sector workers married to public sector workers, many thousands more are the sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters of public sector workers. The austerity affects all workers and their families. The attacks on the public sector are an attempt to attack all workers in the state.

Brendan Howlin was quoted as saying: "But, as I said at the outset of the negotiations back in January, this is the last ask of public servants in terms of income reductions. It is a matter now for public servants to decide," 27/5/2013. It would be the height of irresponsibility for the Trade Union Leaders to take this argument at face value. The Eurozone is still in crisis, the Irish economy is crawling along the bottom. Now, all that the coalition can offer is more pain.

Call them Croke Park 2 or Harrington Road, these proposals must be defeated and the proposed legislation must be soundly defeated by the trade union movement. As we have commented before €300 million is not an enormous amount of money compared to the €34 billion that was used to bail out AIB. It is a relatively small amount compared to the cuts that have come before. It is entirely possible for the public sector workers to defeat these proposals, forcing the coalition to retreat and forcing them to ditch the legislation. Already many unions have balloted for strike action in the event of statutory wage cuts. Coordinated national industrial action, building toward a 24 hour public sector general strike, in other words an intransigent militant position, could smash these proposals out of the ground.

  • Reject Haddington Road
  • Defend Wages and Conditions
  • For a 24 hour General Strike