25 March 2009
The decision by the ICTU to go back into talks with the Government has the potential to place the trade union movement in a position where it will become tied to Government policies, in particular to the consequences of the forthcoming budget and all future budgets.
It is clear from the letter sent by Brian Cowen to David Begg that these talks go well beyond rescuing the current agreement but are geared more towards locking the trade union movement into a position of supporting future Government policy, leaving itself hostage to fortune to an inept Government.
Using such terms in his letter to the ICTU as “societal ownership” of the crisis, Cowen in effect is stating—and the ICTU is clearly buying into this—that society as a whole must accept the responsibility and the cost of a crisis created by a few who, in creating it, made billions off our labour.
The previous “social partnership” agreements did nothing to end the gross inequality that exists in Irish society. If the trade union movement concludes a new agreement with this bankrupt Government the likelihood of achieving a more socially just Ireland is even more extreme, given present conditions.
The present crisis is both global and has specific Irish features, resulting from the policies of the present Government and its cronies in the banks and among property speculators. If the trade union movement does a deal it will be letting this Government, the bankers and speculators away with the pensions, social welfare payments and health and educational services of its members, whether they are now employed or have lost their jobs recently, to continue to raid the public purse in order to bail out a corrupt minority.
This approach is the road to nowhere. It is time for a new departure. If workers are to be called on to make sacrifices, we need to start thinking and acting independently of this Government and crisis-ridden system. A socially just society is clearly not on the agenda of this Government, or any other potential coalition Government, no matter what combination of parties makes it up.