12 November 2009 Edition
Government 'confuses national interest with the interest
TENS OF thousands of workers mobilised in various locations around the 26 Counties on Friday, 6 November for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions-organised Day of Protest against the Irish Government’s approach to the economic crisis and in particular against proposed savage cuts in pay for ordinary workers and in a range of vital public services.
Under the slogan ‘Get up, Stand up’, people mobilised in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Sligo, Tullamore, and Dundalk.
Meanwhile in the North the focus of ICTU demonstrations was on planned cuts to the health service, including job losses and the closure of hospital beds. The British Treasury is demanding ‘efficiency savings’ of £700 million over the next three years. There were demonstrations in Belfast, Derry, Newry, Armagh, Ballymena and Magherafelt.
SIPTU president Jack O’Connor said the labour movement had advanced proposals which would allow the state to emerge successfully from the economic crisis and allow people to hold on to their jobs and homes.
ONLY INTERESTED IN THOSE AT TOP
He accused the Government of being deaf to the interests of the great majority in society but “particularly attuned” to the interests of the top 5 per cent of the population.
“Those at the top of our society, the 5 per cent who own 40 per cent of the wealth, are determined that they will contribute nothing and we are equally determined that they will make their contribution, whether they like it or not,” he told the huge crowd in Dublin.
O’Connor also accused the Government of making “the most dramatic about-turn in the history of our state” by agreeing in April that those at the top would pay some contribution and then in August, deciding that those who depended most on public services should shoulder the entire burden of adjustment.
The Government had allowed itself to be “browbeaten” into accepting this, much the same as it had allowed €400 billion to be pumped into the banks.
“They allowed themselves to be browbeaten to issue an IOU of €54 billion to prop up the banking system when they couldn’t find one measly euro to help working people retain their jobs.
“We are here to attest to the fact that it is fundamentally unfair and we will not accept it regardless of how they demonise us,” he told marchers. “We insist that the people at the top of society pay their contribution and that is the only solution.”
O’Connor, said concepts that were once taken for granted, such as a decent job for a decent wage and a decent level of social security, had been ditched in the interests of those at the top of society.
Meanwhile, luxuries which allowed people earning more than €200,000 a year to pay the same tax as someone earning less than the average industrial wage, had not been ditched.
He said Irish society could not afford the luxury of having no wealth tax and added, to cheers: “Neither can we afford the luxury that people with trophy houses contribute nothing either.”
Throughout history, the labour movement had been asked to have regard to the national interest when government were making a “dog’s dinner” of it. “What’s actually happening is that they’ve confused the national interest with the interest of the better off and the well-to-do and that’s a tragedy.”
ICTU general secretary David Begg said Ireland was confronted with the choice of taking a brutal cut of €4 billion upfront or trying to effect a more gentle adjustment over a longer period. “We know for certain that the first option risks collapsing the economy and is a guarantee of more job losses. Our alternative at least offers the possibility of preserving the social fabric of this society.”
Criticising the nature of public debate since the recession began, Begg said the objective of this was to split public and private sector workers.
The new 24/7 alliance representing frontline public servants in the 26 Counties such as nurses, gardaí and staged a demonstration this Wednesday while a state-wide public service strike is planned for 24 November.