29 January 2009 Edition
Coalition and IBEC slated over 'tunnel vision' on cuts
BY STEPHANIE LORD
THE Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government has been accused by Sinn Féin of having “tunnel vision” in focusing on cutting wages and service as a way out of the economic crisis. “This is costing jobs and hampering Ireland’s chances of economic recovery,” Workers’ Rights spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD said this week.
He pointed out that while the Government is in negotiations with the unions, another 750 workers have been told that they will lose their jobs at Ulster Bank.
“The sole focus on reducing our deficit is costing jobs. In the past four weeks, while the Government’s attention has been on cutting back on our public services, thousands of workers have been let go.
“The Government/IBEC approach of cut-backs and slashing workers’ salaries, as well as basic terms and conditions, is a short-term measure that will cause avoidable hardship to working families and curtail consumption spending even further.
“Ireland needs a job-creation plan for the short-term and medium-term. We need workers who have lost their job to have ready access to up-skilling and retraining.
“This is ABC stuff and it is remarkable that the Government and indeed IBEC have failed to grasp the reality of what needs to be done.”
Morgan emphasised that every other country in the western world has launched major capital spending projects. The Irish Government, on the contrary, has chosen instead to single out the public sector and working people by heaping on the burden of the failing economy whilst at the same time protecting senior bank management and property speculators who, “hand in hand with Fianna Fáil, are the primary culprits behind Ireland’s recession”.
The Louth TD added:
“Reviving the economy is not going to happen by draining money out of it. Economic recovery can only be achieved through a co-ordinated plan of action and major public investment.”
SIPTU and the Irish Bank Officials’ Association (IBOA) have said that there must be no compulsory redundancies at the Ulster Bank or First Active. They echoed Sinn Féin’s calls for protection of workers and job creation through urging the banks’ management to negotiate on restructuring the institutions.
SIPTU Branch Organiser Owen Reidy said:
“Management must be flexible in looking at progressive and imaginative alternatives to redundancies.”
Meanwhile as An Phoblacht goes to print, the government is expected to issue a framework document to social partners that will set the focus for negotiations on a ‘national recovery programme’. The government is seeking to secure agreement to plans that will cut €2 billion in public spending. The talks have already been fraught with difficulty after the Irish Congress of Trade Unions sought to have a protocol document which was drafted by government officials redrawn as it was deemed to be “too vague”.
Congress has argued that revenue can be found by broadening the tax base, introducing a new 48% tax band, property taxes on second homes, and restricting tax breaks. Employers’ body IBEC has made reaching a potential agreement even more challenging by seeking a deferral of increases due to workers under the current social partnership agreement.