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Where is our strike and what are ICTU up to?

category national | worker & community struggles and protests | feature author Thursday December 03, 2009 17:40author by Andrew - WSM - personal capacityauthor email andrewnflood at gmail dot com Report this post to the editors

On the cancellation of the Dec 3rd strike and the disasterous ICTU negotiating position

featured image
This is a table of what public sector workers
in Ireland really earn based on the data given in the
reply to a Dail question in Feb 09.

The cancellation of today's strike is a blow to the developing movement against the cuts on the scale of the cancellation of the March 30th strike at the start of the year. The so called compromise ICTU have been negotiating for is a further blow, it seems designed to drive a wedge between workers and fails to answer the main problem public sector workers have, the inability to take further cuts. But the strike that did happen on 24th November has brought 250,000 workers into their first experience of the power we collectively hold and points towards an alternative

The announcement from ICTU while we were picketing during the national strike on the 24th that a second strike had been set for December 3rd caught most strikers by surprise. Initially workers, most of whom were on strike for the first time ever, were concerned that we would be going out again so soon. But once the news sunk in the idea of having a second strike before the budget cuts made sense, its much easier to stop cuts happening then reversing them.All over the country union sections and branches began the work of organising for a second day of striking and effective pickets.

As news leaked that Peter McLoone was offering the government 10 or more days unpaid leave many of those union militants doing this organizing were perplexed and a certain level of demoralization set in. This unpaid leave 'compromise' made little sense when the main issue was our inability to take further pay cuts. We were already down in the region of 13% in comparison with what we should be taking home once you factor in not only the 'pension levy' pay cut but also the tax hikes and the failure to pay the partnership increases. Another 5 to 7% pay cut is not an option, whether or not extra holidays are added as a sweetener. 54% of public sector workers were earning less that 40,000 before the cuts had taken place. In particular those with families are already seriously struggling to make ends meet. For them unpaid leave is not much of a compromise as they cannot afford the loss of earnings in the first place.

Divide and rule

This ICTU proposal also plays into the hands of the main strategy of the capitalist class in attacking workers in Ireland. We are many and they are few (very few) so what they fear more than anything else is all workers uniting against them. To prevent this they have played a very successful media strategy of getting one group of workers to fight another. So private sector workers target the public sector workers and public sector workers target the unemployed etc. Anyone listening to talk radio cannot but be horrified by the ease with which large numbers of workers have failed for such a simple trick. Sure these shows are manipulated but they do highlight the glaring problem in the IC`~TU 'strategy'.

This ICTU negotiating strategy plays into the hands of those who want to build on this division. Unpaid leave will not only mean a further serious reduction in pay for public sector workers it will also mean a serious deteroriation in services for all workers. For all the hot air about the 'unsustainable' public sector when it gets down to the services provided the same workers who fall for this rhetoric quickly realize that they need the medical, education and other services that public sector workers provide. Unpaid leave will mean fewer workers providing these services on any given day, that has to have a knock on in terms of services. Already too few workers are trying to cover for all those public sector workers who have already lost their jobs because they were on temporary contract or through other means. The unit this writer works in has about 25% fewer staff then 18 months previously.

On the positive side the leaking of the 'compromise' meant that for the first time serious discussions about the need for an all out indefinite strike started to take place. It was becoming increasingly clear that nothing else would force the government to back down in its offensive on pay and conditions and switch instead to targeting the super rich to pay for the crisis. The discussions of whether or not to accept the ICTU 'compromise' was simply one of whether workers thought we were organised enough for such a fight and for each individual how long they thought they could afford to go without pay during such a strike. Such a decision will not be taken easily but it it now on the agenda.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice ..

This is the context in which ICTU's announcement that the December 3rd strike is off has come in. Back in March they called off the strike on the 30th for no reason other than the promise of talks which turned out to be meaningless. This had a massive demoralizing effect on the membership and took all momentum out of the struggle against the cuts until this Autumn. Now it appears they have made the same 'mistake' all over again, called off a strike without anything having been agreed by the other side. And what is on offer is not only crap it is counter productive in terms of uniting workers against the capitalist class.

The problem appears to be that the ICTU leadership have no concept of what to fight for or how to fight for it. Twenty years of social partnership means they are used to accepting the premise of neoliberal economics and restrict themselves to tweaking that logic into in a gentler form. And in terms of tactics to ICTU its all about negotiation and more negotiation with strikes being a very, very last resort to be used only to demonstrate that the negotiators have some muscle behind them and should be treated seriously.

This approach could sort of work during an economic boom. The capitalist class was making so much money that it could afford to throw workers in Ireland the odd bone in return for industrial peace. But for every cent they gave us they took a euro and they were careful to give the cent's in a way that would be automatically undermined once a crisis hit.

In general wage rises under partnership were at or slightly above the inflation rate. But workers saw significant increases in take home pay, a trick that was achieved by repetitive reductions in the percentage of our wages that went on tax. That trick was only made possible because the boom and in particular the housing bubble provided the vast sums through stamp duty that were needed to keep public services going. But when the boom ended this was no longer true and it meant the means to destroy the limited gains workers in Ireland had made were built into the system.

Where should the money be found

ICTU have so bought into this logic that when the government demanded a further 7% cut in public sector pay to save 1300 million ICTU immediately accepted the logic of the governments position that the 1300 million had to come from the pockets of workers and not from the rich. This is not even remotely the case, for instance a 1% wealth tax which would hit the richest 1% the hardest would bring in around 1500 million. We should be striking for this and more as an alternative to the pay cut, more because a 5% wealth tax would provide the money to reverse the cuts and launch a job creation program though expanding the provision of services. That demand is something all workers, public or private could unite around.

Our unions should not be agreeing to cut our wages and arguing with the government about how exactly to do so. Our unions should be refusing any such cut and insisting that the needed finance be raised by going after the rich, whether through a wealth tax or some other means. Our unions should be seeking out ways to unite all workers in a common struggle and included in this the tens of thousands of private and public sector workers who have already lost their jobs.

It's a waste of time to look at the existing ICTU leadership to lead that sort of fight. Nor is it the case that there is an alternative leadership in the wings or even that all union members are already in the mood for such a fight. The truth is that although workers are starting to get ahead of the ICTU leadership for the most part until recently most workers also saw no alternative.

The question of leadership is not a question of who is at the top of the unions giving directions but rather of what the base believes. The alternative leadership we need is not to be found sipping tea in a back room of Liberty Hall but rather is a set of ideas and methods that we need to collectively develop together. Chief amongst these is that we, and by we I mean all workers, unite around a demand that it is the capitalist class and not the working class that must pay for the crisis. Until that unity is achieved they will continue to play the game of setting one set of workers against another.

We also need to develop the ideas that will enable the hundreds of thousands of unionized workers to not only take control of our struggle against the cuts but to bring in the over one million workers who are not currently organised and build solidarity with the further half million thrown out of work. That is no small task but it is what we have to achieve unless we want to continue to face further attacks on on pay and standards of living and if we want to see jobs being created rather than destroyed.

One minor step in that direction is the creation of the Social Solidarity Network in Dublin. "The Social Solidarity network is a grouping of people who have come together to provide a forum for workers and communities to unite to resist the attacks and to build links across the many struggles which will break out over the coming months." This is the sort of initiative that needs to be spread across the county. The SSN has called a protest for Budget day from 5-7pm outside the Dail, you'll find more details at http://www.indymedia.ie/article/94987

Related Link: http://anarchism.pageabode.com/cat/capitalist-crisis
author by Datapublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 13:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Source of spreadsheet info on top of post is here: http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2009-02-17.955.0

author by Apublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 14:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"What are ICTU up to?"

So, you are saying what are the 55 Trade Unions and 33 Trade Councils affiliated to ICTU up? And, by default you are associating the 800,000 workers affiliated to congress with what the public sector unions have negotiated with their employer?

Or, are you saying, what are the public sector committee of ICTU up to? Or, are you saying that what are the public sector unions who represent workers employed by government up to in negotiating with their employer? Or, are you saying what is P Mc Loone up to?

ICTU is a confederational association. Congress is not negotiating with government over a social partnership agreement. It is public sector unions negotiating with their employer - department of finance. There is a huge difference here.

It is not unreasonable for any union to negoitate with their members employer. What do you think public sector workers would do if their leadership stated 'we are not willing to talk to your employer'. They would be voted out within days.

Public sector unions are, and always have been, the most conservative group within ICTU. Given that trade union density in the public sector is 90 per cent, it is no surprise that they control the direction of voting within congress. It is a democratic organisation and unsurprisingly the strategy adopted by the leaders follow the preference of the likes of P Mc Loone and Impact.

I think it is important for those of us who support a national strike to stop equating conservative public sector unions (and membership) with Trade Unions (and ICTU) writ large. It is demobilising and wedded to an old school 'bash the leaders' logic. There are many more avenues of resistance, and most people are not motivated by negative attacks. They will identify with successful strategies and such a strategy is non-existent in the WSM. One organisation amongst many that should be trying to work collaboratively in building a new Irish Labour Movement.

Presently, there is no negotiation for a national partnership agreement. But, that is what ICTU want to fight for, and, according to my research, it is supported by 90 per cent of their members. So, what are they suppose to do?

However, in support of your argument, I also found that most would support a general strike if the government unilaterally cut their pay. So, your strategy might be, let government cut pay, let finance rip through welfare payments and maybe then ICTU would be forced to adopt a militant strategy. But, this requires allowing an employer to cut pay without attempting to negoitate. I dont know one example in the history of trade unionism where this has worked.

If we had 90 per cent density in private sector I sense ICTU would be fighting for something totally different. Why? because they would have the power to do so.

The real struggle and the real location where a militant approach can be adopted is in the likes of Boots, Greencore, Coca Cola, Deep Clean Hygiene Solution, Glanbia, Easons, Musgraves, Cadbury's, Schering Plough and so many other areas of employment that are not constrained by a long legacy of working closely with government as an employer. Spend one day in the labour court and I sense your focus will move away from the 'ICTU leadership' and on to real struggles that are happening everywhere across the economy.

The seeds of a general strike will not be sown in the public sector even if that is traditionally where most activity takes place.

A real strategy (that is not based on a 'bash the leaders logic') is one that will attempt to coordinate the huge amount of industrial strife across the economy into a collective movement. This will not happen without the support of least some, if not not all, the 55 Trade Unions affiliated to ICTU. The Labour Court, the LRC, The Rights Commission is swimming in cases taken by trade unions against scrupulous employers. Why not go down there and try convince all these activists that they should stop using concilliation services and adopt a tactic of withdrawing their labour?

In success, and in trying to win, strategy and gaining communicative power is everything. Straw man arguments will not build a collective labour movement aimed at national strike.

author by Jerry Corneliuspublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 14:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Straw man arguments will not build a collective labour movement aimed at national strike."

You are making the real Straw Man arguments by asserting that 90% of union members support the ICTU "leadership". You have supplied no evidence of this and I'm a bit suspicious regarding your supposed opposition to paycuts.

The ICTU "leadership" had no mandate to go in and negotiate 12 days unpaid leave. This is a paycut pure and simple. Public Sector workers voted to take strike action against any further disimprovement in their working condiitions. Yet traitors likeMcLoone and Begg started negotiating cuts straightaway after last weeks strike.

There is a genuine feeling of unrest among public sector workers, their anger is palpable. If you knew anything about the public service or had carried out any research you would be aware of this.

author by Apublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 14:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

When you eventually have the bottle to put your real name formard Jerry I will respond.

But, your right, my research is a big conspiracy.

author by Apublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 14:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

P.S

For those with a real interest: it indicates 90 per cent support fighting for a 'national agreement' as a strategy . It has nothing to do with ICTU leadership as my post states.

author by Jerry Corneliuspublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 14:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"When you eventually have the bottle to put your real name formard Jerry I will respond. "

And your real name is A? Irony is not dead.

Your comments are all over the place. Its reasonable to infer from them that you are suggesting that 90% of public sector union members support the ICTU "Leadership". Your sophistry about negotiating is laughable as ICTU quite clearly have no mandate to negotiate 12 days unpaid leave. Union members voted to oppose any cutbacks.

The farmers are short of fodder give them the straw back.

author by Apublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 15:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Its reasonable to infer from them that you are suggesting that 90% of public sector union members support the ICTU "Leadership"

No, as the author of the piece of research I can safely say it is completely unreasonable to infer 90% of public sector unions support ICTU leadership. There is a correlation but to 'infer' this would be completely unreasonable.

My research was not interested in whether they support 'their leaders', they voted for them, they are there; not very interesting.

I am interested in the strategy that they want pursued regardless of who is doing it, which categorically found that 90% want their union to fight for a 'national agreement'.

85% prefer 'social dialgoue over confrontation. But, 60% would support a general strike if an agreement could not be reached. But, they would be striking for a 'national agreement'. Now, anyone with any experience of TU activity is not going to find this remotely surprising.

Facts are obviously contested. But if you insist that the apples I am observing are oranges, and the sky is multi-coloured then all power to you.

author by Jerry Corneliuspublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 15:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We still have haven't established if A is your real name.

Your piece above is ambiguously written and some of it is open to several interpetations in places.

I doubt if your "research" really exists. If it had then you would have given cited quotes from it and and you would have outlined your methodology. I would be suprised if such research had not been published, even on a vanity blog.

To bring things down to Earth I suggest that we proceed on the basis that ICTU had no mandate to negotiate 12 days unpaid leave. I am unaware of any union branch holding a vote on this proposal.

author by Alan Davis - International Bolsehvik Tendencypublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 16:22author email ireland at bolshevik dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

At the ICTU organised "Town Hall" meeting in Cork on Monday 23 November we got a presentation on the "five key demands" they were supposedly taking into talks with the government. One of these was "Stop cuts in incomes" and yet less than a week later we hear they are proposing a cut in income for public sector workers in the form of unpaid leave.

There is NO mandate for this deal, as is also witnessed by their spin doctor attempts to say this isn't a cut as pay "rates" have been maintained. This is playing semantics - compulsory unpaid leave is a cut in income.

This betrayal is so transparent that it is to be hoped that we might see the development. of a class struggle alternative to the class collaboration of "Social Partnership".

Good luck for the demo next week - any plans for actions in Cork?

Related Link: http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/Irish_crisis_09.html
author by Angrypublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 19:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

At least the anarchists are beginning to see the importance of leadership + why the working class need better leaders to liberate themselves.

author by Mpublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 20:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think you might be missing the point. The fact that the so-called leadership within the ICTU are making deals on the behalf of teachers nationwide, without any mandate, kinda goes to show that leadership is not the way forward. If delegates within a union behave like this, the should be forced to step down; i don't see David Begg resigning. i'd also like to point out that my partner is a primary school teacher , and she heard nothing at work about unpaid leave preceding the dec. 3rd. cancellation either.

author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party / CWIpublication date Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The ICTU leadership have shown incredible incompetence to go with their hanging of public sevices and public sector workers. They assumed that Cowen and Co. would jump at a chance of a deal with them. However, it is clear the government are intent on playing hardball and as a result Begg and the rest are now backed into a corner. The are offering what is in effect a pay cut of 5%+ in the form of the unpaid leave and cuts in allowances etc. If the government turn around and say 'bugger off' and implement an across the board pay cut - what can ICTU do? - call workers out on strike against the a pay cut that they were offering themselves. The government have them over a barrel and in effect the ICTU leadership will have to accept whatever the government are offering - indeed they will probably have to give more in order to get their own daft proposals accepted in order to save face.

author by Andrewpublication date Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'd have thought it pretty obvious that a researcher needs to read beyond the headline of an article in constructing a reply. Headlines really only function to draw people in, its pretty much impossible for them to be any sort of summary. Building a reply around a headline is as 'strawman' as you can get.

It's obvious that we don't agree on a number of questions, however many of the points you raise in answer to the headline are already replied to in the body of the article, specifcially
"It's a waste of time to look at the existing ICTU leadership to lead that sort of fight. Nor is it the case that there is an alternative leadership in the wings or even that all union members are already in the mood for such a fight. The truth is that although workers are starting to get ahead of the ICTU leadership for the most part until recently most workers also saw no alternative.

The question of leadership is not a question of who is at the top of the unions giving directions but rather of what the base believes. The alternative leadership we need is not to be found sipping tea in a back room of Liberty Hall but rather is a set of ideas and methods that we need to collectively develop together. Chief amongst these is that we, and by we I mean all workers, unite around a demand that it is the capitalist class and not the working class that must pay for the crisis. Until that unity is achieved they will continue to play the game of setting one set of workers against another."


Like Jerry Cornelius I'm not inclined to accept your interpretation of some research that is not available for the rest of us to pick through. I'd want to know what the questions asked were, what questions had been asked before those questions and details of the rest of the methodology. The figure '90%' sounds like an invented one in particular as in the region of 1/3 of workers have tended to vote against partnership deals so a shift to 90% support would be a huge one where that general opposition had fallen to less than 1/3 of its general level in circumstances where partnership has been discredited. This strikes me as unlikely and you use the magic 90% figure three times in your reply in relation to 3 seperate areas which suggests a (common enough) rhetorical attraction to that particular figure.

The focus on the 'ICTU leadership' your perceive actually comes from involvement in 'real struggle' as should be obvious from the opening couple of paragraphs. I don't think that public sector workers can defeat the government on their own but like it or not public sector workers have led the fight so far. 250,000 of them did strike last week and until the ICTU leadership called it off were about to strike again yesterday. Pretty much no public sector workers are "constrained by a long legacy of working closely with government as an employer" - we don't get to do that, it is the ICTU leadership that does it (supposadely on our behalf) and pretty much without our input. I've yet to talk to a single public sector workers who agrees with the unpaid leave idea, indeed most see it as unworkable for the reasons I outline in the article. (and incidentally I've been in the Labour court on more that one occasion but as a 9-5 office worker don't have the ability to hang around there every day)

You want to shift the focus from ICTU to McLoone, a handy scapegoat as he is retiring in a few months anyway. I don't think he is making a solo run on this. I think he is implementing a collective strategy from the ICTU leadership with the knowledge that the anger focused on him will be meaningless once he retires. But leaving that aside rather than telling me that some of the 55 unions affiliated to ICTU represent an alternative why don't you spell out which ones you mean. I note that your list of private sector disputes includes ones that involve the second biggest public sector union (SIPTU) which of course is also the biggest private sector union, the fact that SIPTU is no more or less conservative than the other public sector unions in any significant way I think undermines your central thesis that the nature of the PS breeds conservatism.. Personally I think your opening paragraph delibretely confuses the leadership of the unions with the membership and confuses the union leadership at the national level with the trades councils which are not really comparable. But beyond that I don't see a section of the national leadership that offers an alternative leadership, rather than asserting they exist maybe let us know who they are?

author by Apublication date Fri Dec 04, 2009 12:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks Andrew

I am rushing away from my computer so will respond in detail when I get the chance.

Just one point of clarification before I respond to specifics. The current negotiation and the deal you are referring to is between public sector unions and the government as an employer not a tri-partite negotiation between ICTU, IBEC and Government. The latter is what takes place in social partnership but at the moment this is not occuring.

This is an extremely important difference. The public sector commitee of ICTU is the only connection between the current talks and ICTU write large (i.e. Congress of 55 Trade Unions, 33 Trade Councils - over 800,000 members). The final deal will only effect public sector workers.

So, unlike the previous 7 national wage agreements (which are always led by the private sector) and set a wage floor for all workers; this is not. It is public sector unions V' department of finance (employer). So, your argument is against the leadership of public sector unions. The context of the negotiation is the achieving savings in the public finances. The strategy of the unions is to avoid a flat cut in pay. Most thought the savings would have been agreed via public sectors reforms. Reforms aimed at service delivery akin to what most EU countries have adopted in the past ten years.

RTE, only since yesterday, have started to acccurately describe this. It is isimply incorrect to describe what is happening as an ICTU negotiation.

_____

"The question of leadership is not a question of who is at the top of the unions giving directions but rather of what the base believes"

This is the central issue that needs to be unpacked. Your analysis is premised on the assumption that the 'base' (and here I am assuming that you are referring to union members not everyone who sells their labour) believes something different to the existing trade union leadership. You are assuming that workers have a fixed interest that is not being reflected by the leadership. There is no evidence to support this assumption.

All workers do not have a fixed preference. In a pure rational choice model used by neo-classical economists they do. But, all evidence (look at Sweden and the huge differences in the preference of different sectors and how this led to a shift from centralised wage bargaining to sectoral led bargaining) points to the contrary.

Now, this is not to say, and I agree with you on the need to enable a "method and idea" to construct a collectivist approch to the current crisis. But, I am not confident that such a unity can be achieved. Given the hugely fragmented and segmented nature of Irelands labour market I do not see an cohesive 'collectivism' emerging.

Focusing on your assumption that the union leadership is not reflective of the base. From my own research and granted it is not public I have found that public sector unions are just as conservative as their base. In fact, from other work I have been doing and from talking to many different TU activists I can anecdotally conclude that the membership is far more conservative than shop floor activists. This should not be a surprise to anyone. We hav'nt even got a large social democratic party in Ireland for fuck sake. The base are not radical.

I interviewed a random sample of people on the ICTU march and found that 87 per cent support fighting for a national agreement. To be honest, most people looked at me with ten heads when I mentioned the possibility of any other strategy than looking for a 'national agreement'. Why? Becuase the march itself was organised around 'fighting for a fairer better way', i.e. a national agreement. I also found that most voted for Fianna Fáil in the last general election. And, as mentioned, I found that most would support a general strike if a deal could not be reached.

Now, your remarks about the validity of my research are fair enough. But, in fairness I am not going to just release it on to Indymedia for the trolls to eat up. But, email me by face book and I will happily forward you a summary.

However, I ask you the question: where is your evidence to support the conclusion that the preference of public sector trade union members is not being reflected by their leaders?

Also, one has to keep in mind the broader context. The deal on unpaid annual leave is anything but complete. Jolly Rodger actually makes a valid point about negotiation strategy. Also, the vast majority of criticism being levelled at the TU leadership is the complete opposite of your critique. The right wing media has come oUT in force attacking the government for caving in to the unions.

Where is the alternative leadership going to come from? I really don't know to be honest. But, it certainly will not come from the public sector.

author by Andrewpublication date Fri Dec 04, 2009 12:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for these clarifications, however my position is more nuanced then "your assumption that the union leadership is not reflective of the base" I'm inclined to agree that in normal situations the leadership roughly reflects the base however when you enter into a period of struggle the opinions of the base start to change quite fast, certainly in the public sector this has been happening and a more careful reading of the article will show that is one of the main themes (as it is the main theme of my previous article). Incidentally this is why I don't use terms like 'sellout' etc in it. I've directly observed a huge change in opinions in terms of active union members where I work and heard reports from elsewhere of similar changes. Most noticibly the fact that many people are now willing to seriously contemplate an indefinite strike as an alternative to this deal. I think the problem with your analysis is that it fails to acknowledge that the ICTU leadership tend to be unresponsive to change - their conservatism is very much more ideologically fixed than that of the base. This is pretty much a universal problem with leadership of position politics.

I'm also arguing against the ideology of partnership rather than a national deal for the public sector. I don't think national deals make sense in the private sector but given that the public sector has a single employer they can (this in itself though is a complex question). The problem with what the ICTU public sector union leaders are negotiating its that it is based on 'share the pain' and worse still on 'ok we'll take the paid alone but we just want to argue about how its implemented'. It should be based on 'make the rich pay'. It also has the other problems I highlight above,

Fair enough on not wanting to publish the details of your research but obviously this means that people are going to be reluctant to accept it as fact. We all know how easy it is to accidentally as well as delibretly manipulate things to get particular results. BTW which ICTU march did you do it in, The Feb one or the more recent one or both? If both it would be interesting to see if there was a shift between the two although the lack or real debate within many branches on what the possibilites are means probably not

author by Notatall Surprised - Nonepublication date Fri Dec 04, 2009 16:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

ICTU to my best knowledge did not obtain a mandate to negotiate pay cuts.On the contrary ICTU organised its national campaign around the resistance to furthur pay cuts as well as seeking a reversal of already existing ones(an issue which ICTU have been very silent on lately).

The introduction of a negotiated unpaid leave element for workers as oppossed to paid leave where it exists for workers is a negative for workers and a reversal or erosion of conditions.Call it what you want but if this proposal is implemented it will result in a conditional and financial loss for already hard hit workers,it is a cut........simple.

I maybe paranoid but I cant help thinking back to a comment made by a colleague of mine on the eve of national strike 24 Nov 09.Despite conscientiously feeling the need to have emergency services provided for my colleague felt that if these services were fulfilled without receipt of payment by strikers it could act as an exercise in cost cutting as well as a substantial saving.Is not having to pay thousands of public service workers while they stand by at and in their places of work ready and willing to work if the need arises a saving also.

author by Jerry Corneliuspublication date Fri Dec 04, 2009 17:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For a survey to be valid it must be based on a representative sample of the "population" it is analysing. In this case public sector trade union members. To interview people at random in a march is meaningless. You need to reflect the relative numbers of nurses, teachers, firefighters, clerical civil servants, managerial civil servants (same for local authority/HSE workers). It really sounds as if you had no methodology at all and you seem to have no genuine knowledge about how surveys are carried out.

If your survey was genuine then you would not have to worry about trolls. IF your "survey" exists then I do not believe it would stand up to much scrutiny.

The last ballot which was conducted amongst public sector workers resulted in a vote to take industrial action to defend existing conditions. Nowhere did anyone give a mandate to ICTU to sell us out.

author by Apublication date Fri Dec 04, 2009 18:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Talks have broken down. It will be interesting if the public sector unions attempt to reignite the 'suspended' strike before Wedmesday. Not likely.

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/1204/...1.htm

It seems the government are hell bent on a competitive devaluation, it will be open season in the private sector now.

author by angry workerpublication date Fri Dec 04, 2009 22:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

No one likes bleedin' ICTU, but what is the alternative? All of the left believe to have the answers and the truth yet are unable to make any difference. It is one thing to do the talk quite another to do the walk. We all love to talk of solidarity and we are unable to come to the simplest of the agreements to get out of this mess. We all like to discuss about reality but not to change it. The workers are screwed with an incompetent ICTU leadership but a far more incompetent left!

author by ordinary manpublication date Sat Dec 05, 2009 00:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Today the Labour Party called for 6 billion in cuts and Gilmore was on the radio arguing for the hard choices. Tonight Richard Boyd Barrett said "It’s now time for a serious campaign including strike action to remove this government. This evening we are calling on union leaders and the Labour Party to declare war on this government." Is he fucking serious!

author by rianorr - napublication date Sat Dec 05, 2009 11:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The right wing rump of FF howled at any deal with the union bureauracy, who where gagging for it.
The bluff of public sector workers was called and their choice is simple, a struggle to bring down this
government or pay cut after pay cut, a revolving quarterly kick in the balls. Watching Beggs on VB show
was painful, this is not the man who will deliver a successful result.

author by Civil Servantpublication date Sat Dec 05, 2009 14:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's clear that the Public Services Committee were shocked yesterday at the Government's decision to reject their negotiated surrender and to declare all-out war on the trade unon movement. They honestly believed that the Government was negotiating in good faith!

This, after the farce of the phony "talks" staged following the Pensions Levy climbdown in Spring, is what must bear home to even the most timid public service worker that we need to replace our leadership.

The leadership will realise how exposed they are. They have marched us up the hill - twice - only to march us down again without engaging the enemy. I have no doubt that there will be a show of militancy and bursts of angry hot air.

But the collaborationist generals have lost all credibility. We are here, facing a second 7% paycut in less than a year, because they have led us here. It's time the lions fired the donkeys. It's time to organise a real and effective strike.

author by Gerard Murphypublication date Sat Dec 05, 2009 15:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

once again, an article where people on the Left argue among themselves!! Difference of opinion that blurs the issues! Do people ever see any internal wrangle among the guys at IBEC or ISME, or any of the right wing movements, no, they are too cute for that, they are experts at sowing the seeds of division( irish independent et al) and sit back , watch the general population eat themselves up, and they roll of into the sunset , their pockets full of profits made of our backs, will the socialists/communists/anarchists/neo-marxist/marxists etc the list is endless ever cop on?????????????????

author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party / CWIpublication date Sat Dec 05, 2009 19:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tonight Richard Boyd Barrett said "It’s now time for a serious campaign including strike action to remove this government. This evening we are calling on union leaders and the Labour Party to declare war on this government." Is he fucking serious!

Are you fucking serious???????

Where ?

When ?

Does anyone have it on tape ???

Because the next time someone comes on here from the SWP talking about left unity I would like to be able to indicate that they should be talking to the LP rather than the SP, given that they appear to have such faith in their socialist bona-fides.

author by Northside socialistpublication date Sat Dec 05, 2009 20:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

...are you saying that you and the SP would NOT welcome an assault on the government by the Labour Party and unions? Because that's all RBB seems to be appealing for. If you think back to Joe's Left Unity speech in the summer (I remember it vividly) he said there were "serious questions now" over the Labour Party; not quite the hard line you (and I for that matter) seem to consider de rigeur, but an attempt to examine and expose where Labour really stands. That's how I see RBB's comments, although he's made more questionable ones in the past.

author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party / CWIpublication date Sat Dec 05, 2009 20:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Are you suggesting that there is any prospect of the LP leading a class war on the government in conjunction with the trade unions?

The difference between what Joe Higgins said (that there should be no illusions in the LP) and what RBB said (that we should have illusions in the LP) - is both stark - and is striking in terms of the political outlook of the SP and the SWP.

RBB did not make any suggestion that there were questions over the LP - he argued that the LP should be leading the war on the government - not alone that but he also argued that the union leadership should be leading the war on the government - the exact same union leadership that went into talks with the government and without any mandate - negotiated a pay cut and negotiated away large areas of the terms and conditions of public sector workers including working hours, work rosters, overtime and allowance payments etc.

- why didn't he go the whole hog and argue that FG should lead the assault - same politics as the LP and the union leaders, a bigger party and more lightly to be successful.

the shift to the right among the leadership of the SWP is become more stark every day - nothing surprising here - the history of the SWP demonstrates that in times of crisis their politics falls asunder and they end up in political dead ends such as this one. I am waiting in anticipation for the SWP to call on all socialists to enter the LP so we can force it to the left and persude it to launch a 'war on the government'.

author by Northside socialistpublication date Sat Dec 05, 2009 21:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

That's some nice sophistic interpretation of the facts to support a discredited sectarian position, Lou.

author by Northside socialistpublication date Sat Dec 05, 2009 22:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"If you don't make a stand now, you're proving that you are what we said you were all along."

author by Steodonnpublication date Sun Dec 06, 2009 00:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This will be largely ignored by the government while I will be there I don't think it will make a difference. Its time for real action strike until this gov resigns and that is only the 1st step

author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party / CWIpublication date Sun Dec 06, 2009 13:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"If you don't make a stand now, you're proving that you are what we said you were all along."

If RBB wanted to expose the LP instead of saying that they should lead a war against the government he should have said something like -
" If the LP were interested in defending workers they should be leading the war against the government - but they are not - and as a result they will line up in an alliance with the government in forcing pay cuts across the board. The time has come to build a rank-and-file alternative (a phrase the SWP love) to the trade union bureaucracy and a new mass party for the working class". That would expose the LP because events would demonstrate that what was being said about the LP was accurate.

Indeed if RBB had even made the statement he did make and qualified it with your 'interpretation' then it would have gone some way towards demonstrating that he was not attempting to sow any illusions in the LP or the union bureaucracy. Instead he calls on the bureaucracy and the LP to 'lead' the war. With the statement RBB made - Gilmore could turn around and say "we are leading the war against this government - we want them out so we can get in and implement our policies and we want everyone to join with us in getting rid of this pathetic government'. The problem of course is that the LP have the same policies as FF (except they want to cut €6billion) - something RBB has not raised any comment about.

author by Yawnpublication date Sun Dec 06, 2009 22:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As usually seems to happen on indymedia what started off as a well written article with good critiques by the early contributers has dengenerated into a pointless slagging match which has no relevance to the original article, certainly 8 of the last 12 comments starting with 'ordinary man'. These don't have any place here. Now folks can we please get back to the original article namely the sellout of the ICTU 'leadership' or do you last few 'commentors' mentioned above not give a s**t about this?

author by ordinary manpublication date Mon Dec 07, 2009 01:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If you want to read what Richard Boyd Barrett said then go to the people before profit website it is part of their latest statement http://www.people-before-profit.org/node/253

author by Yawn againpublication date Mon Dec 07, 2009 01:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As I already said who gives a s**t about the LP, SWP or SP? I want to know what the f**k are we going to do to the 'Union' 'Leaders' about their unprecedented betrayal of All Workers Both Public And Private Sector? That's more important than some hissy fits about Parties which most people don't give a damn about.

author by Piggy wiggy the anarchistpublication date Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

GRA today announce an illegal ballot of their members for industrial action.
At a press conference in Dublin today the Garda Representative Association general secretary, flanked by other members of the executive' announced a ballot of members for industrial action. This unprecedented move by the Gardai represents a clear challenge to the government and calls into question the ability of the state to impose cuts and redundancies on the public sector.

The Garda action is llegal under the Grada Siochana Act. It is illegal even to advocate strike action or encourage it, even more to organise it.

The Gardai are a key component of the control mechanism of the state. Whilst crime fighting is their perceived public role, their key role is the protection of the integrity of the state and the protect of the capitalist economic system under which we live. Examples are many of Garda action to defeat opposition to the state and its projects. For the Gradai then to rebel in this way is a major crisis as the state is heavily dependent on their loyalty and force.

author by rianorr - napublication date Mon Dec 07, 2009 13:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I doubt they are worried about a cut in pay but the prospect of changes to their overtime or work shifts
that would push them to open rebellion.

author by Civil Servantpublication date Mon Dec 07, 2009 14:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree with "Yawn"'s remarks.

This is an important issue and I would welcome some constructive analysis. I would also welcome some prognosis of how best to organise and proceed, particularly from the left organisations Their UK counterparts are serious players in the Public Service trade union movement and the recent events have presented them with a golden opportunity to build the same kind of influence in the Irish Public Service Trade Unions.

If the SP, SWP or WSM intervene here aqain, I think it would be appropriate if we heard something resembling a plan. It might be worthwhile considering the establishment of a moderated website/blog which could become a forum for serious discussion of how to build a movement.

Perhaps I am being naive in suggesting that; perhaps the level of conciousness is so low that the website would be derelict - but surely the attempt to crush the last remaining bastion of organised labour in Ireland deserves some leadership from the left in response.

author by Jerry Corneliuspublication date Mon Dec 07, 2009 14:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If you look at the main article you will se it is written by a member of the WSM. Nothing wrong with the SP or SWP intervening, just dont use the thread as a platform to attack each other. The main enemy here is the Government, the SEcondary enemy are the private sector employers, the ICTU misleadership are the third order enemy. The SP and SWP are not the enemy, neither are many LP members as distinct from the leadership.

But the ICTU misleadership must be swept out of the way if we are to win. That will not be accomplished by the SP, SWP, WSM, independents and others on the Left. It also means breaking through to LP activists in the TU movement. Whats on the agenda here is not revolution, but defeating the burocracy and making the government change their policy is a possibility.

author by Civil Servantpublication date Mon Dec 07, 2009 15:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The sniping between the left parties on this site is demoralising. There is the possibility of a Broad Left coalescing around this issue and "organising discontent" in a serious fashion.

But this won't happen spontaneously. It requires the catalyst of an initiative from the left parties or, even better, from Trade Union activists and committee members who are members, former members or sympatisers of those parties. If the initiative is successful, a broader layer of activists may be inspired to hop on the bandwagon.

The tinder is dry. Let's see the Left apply the spark.

author by Alan Davis - International Bolshevik Tendencypublication date Mon Dec 07, 2009 23:26author email ireland at bolshevik dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Here in Cork we had a successful demonstration against NAMA and the cuts back in September that was initiated by a united front of the SP, SWP, WSM, IWU & WP along with various individuals such as myself, under the name Cork United Alliance Against Cuts.

Although this committee hasn't met since the demonstration I thought it was a great example of the non-sectarian approach we need if we are going to reach out to, and mobilise with, the wider layers of the population who want to fight-back against the attacks but don't currently see a framework for doing so. I think we need to re-start CUAAC - members of the left groups in Cork got any comments?

Along with this we also need to start to build a network of activists in the trade unions who can co-ordinate opposition to the bureaucrats. I would however be wary of this being of the "Broad Left" type of organisation which tend to be electoral non-aggression pacts, if the British experience is anything to go by. Building an opposition in the workers' movement is going to require a combination of non-sectarian joint activity along with space for frank and honest political discussion on the wider strategies required to defeat the bosses and their government.

The attached article by the IBT is a contribution to that discussion.

Related Link: http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/Irish_crisis_09.html
author by Declan Bradypublication date Tue Dec 08, 2009 00:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The union leadership has accepted that pay must be cut. Any further proposed action is merely to allow the rank and file an outlet for their anger. O'Connor, Begg and McLoone have already conceded that workers' living standards have to be reduced. They have been assimilated into the system. They are phonies.
The union leadership, the government, academic economists, the mainstream media, and business are all part of a cosy consensus view that the way out of the economic debacle is to attack working class living standards.
"At one level, it is remarkable that the broad parameters of the required fiscal adjustment seems to have been accepted on all sides, such that there was a common overall objective. This should not be taken for granted and is a tribute to the social partnership process"
Philip Lane.
http://www.irisheconomy.ie/

author by Alright boypublication date Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Some good points Alan. You could also have mentioned that the united action by the left in Cork was initiated by the Socialist Party that might silence some of the critics.

author by D.Bpublication date Wed Dec 09, 2009 00:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"the union movement and the government should be able to internalise the overall macroeconomic environment and recognise that a pay cut can be the efficient response to negative macroeconomic developments" Philip Lane

http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2009/12/06/the-pub...deal/

The union bosses and their advisers are coming very close to accepting the backward, neo-liberal position that the needs of finance capital must be met before the needs of the working class. Hence their acquiescence in the governments attack on workers' living standards.

author by Michael Gallagherpublication date Sat Dec 12, 2009 20:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

SIPTU are trying to block any dissent and new people breaking through. I only found this out last month from the SWP website. Check it yourself, they have changed the rules regards elections to officer roles. Meanwhile, there are moves afoot to mobilise a layer within poltical parties, trade unions and community groups to do something against these cuts.

Whatever about pay cuts, the people on the margins who are falling off the boat don't have time to wait until the next general election is due. I believe that the way forward should be focused on ICTU members DEMANDING that the leadership mobilise or resign! Bring down this government and reverse the cuts as a first step in trying to get our country back. We are in the pockets of the World Bank, IMF, their gangster politicians and businessmen friends etc. If they refuse, then the rank and file should discuss ways of taking on the task themselves, IGNORE the ICTU leadership and demand that they resign. A good starting point would be to mobilise in the number of trade unions that are not dictated to by ICTU, UNITE and IWU.

O'Connor and Begg etc are too set in their ways, are they capable of changing? What about the trickle down to the lackies like Eric Fleming etc, are they capable of changing?? If they are, well let them prove it. They talk the Connolly/Larkin talk, well let's see them call for mass mobilisation, but this time walk the Connolly/Larkin walk and march to the top of the hill, and don't move from those gates until this government resigns!! Don't hold your breath.

Try DCTV and You Tube Trade Union TV for videos of last Thursdays meeting in UNITE.

Photos essays etc on workers rights etc @ http://www.myspace.com/libertypix

Thanks for looking.

author by MGpublication date Sat Dec 12, 2009 21:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

....for podcasts of the UNITE post budget meeting and more.

http://www.irishleftreview.org/

Speakers: Michael Taft (research officer, Unite); Eoin Ó Broin (Sinn Féin); Cathleen O’Neill (community activist, Kilbarrack); Cllr Cian O’Callaghan (Labour Party); Eugene McCartan (CPI).
Speakers: Michael Taft (research officer, Unite); Eoin Ó Broin (Sinn Féin); Cathleen O’Neill (community activist, Kilbarrack); Cllr Cian O’Callaghan (Labour Party); Eugene McCartan (CPI).

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