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26 March 1998 Edition

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Workers in struggle

McCreevy misfires on funding cuts

McCreevy must make sure that the Irish people are the ones who actually benefit from whatever funding is available.
``We will be fighting for a fair share of the funding''. This was Charlie McCreevy, Dublin Government finance minister, firing on all cylinders this week in the face of EU Commission proposals to cut structural, cohesion and CAP funding after the year 2000 by up to 80%.

McCreevy was speaking after a meeting of EU finance ministers heard the Dublin Government's first response to the proposed changes in EU funding.

The cuts in the Agenda 2000 plan at present include proposals to cut structural funds by 20% by 2006. Cohesion funding will be discontinued after 2004 while CAP funding will be cut by between 15% and 30%. Total funding in these three areas over the years 1993 to 1999 will total over £15 billion.

The reason behind the cuts is that the last decade of record economic growth has meant a loss of our status as a most disadvantaged region. We are becoming a more affluent EU economy.

The question that hasn't been asked though is who are the `We'? Year after year hugely impressive figures have been released which measure economic wealth in the 26 Counties. Though this wealth was created by Irish workers it does not necessarily mean that we were all net beneficiaries. The vast majority of us are in much the same position today as we were before the Celtic Tiger economy was hyped into being.

If Charlie McCreevy is really concerned about the loss of EU funding there are range of options he could take rather than the well worn path of shaking the EU begging bowl.

First, he should make a case to the EU that the huge increases in total wealth have not transferred into more wealth and better living standards for the masses of Irish households. In fact in some areas particularly in the North West and Connacht there is chronic economic underdevelopment. Again many urban areas in Dublin and elsewhere have been completely bypassed by the benefits of the Tiger economy.

McCreevy should challenge how the EU money is allocated. Much of the infrastructural projects funding is allocated to projects of dubious merit. In the case of CAP funding the vast majority of farmers have not benefitted from the funding.

Finally, Charlie should look at alternative sources of funding such as billions of punts of profits earned by foreign multinationals that are sucked out of the 26-County economy annually.

McCreevy must make sure that the Irish people are the ones who actually benefit from whatever funding is available. That would be a unique step for a Dublin Government minister as in the past they have merely trumpeted the billions they had wrangled from EU coffers. McCreevy needs to think again.

Bluffer's Guide to the Single Currency Part Two

How will the single currency affect Irish workers?

Irish workers are now being coerced into accepting low wage increases on the basis that with the arrival of a single currency they are competing with other workers all over the EU.

The fact that wages in Ireland are already very low relative to most other EU states has been forgotten. Instead a paranoia over wage levels is being induced into the Irish labour market, disempowering workers.

Who is in charge of the currency?

Control lies with the unelected European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB board of governors is made up of appointments from each member state. The ECB will decide all aspects of monetary policy with each participating state ceding control over inflation and interest rates to this unelected authority. The bank is sited in Frankfurt. The British Government had lobbied hard for it to be in London but the IRA's bombing campaign in the city put the seal of death on their claims.

Who decides who will be in the currency on 1 January 1999?

The EU Commission together with the Eurpean Monetary Institute and the ECB have been monitoring the economies of EU member states to see if they are abiding by what's called the Maastricht Criteria.

The criteria includes targets that must be met on inflation, interest rates, debt and public sector borrowing. At present only 11 EU states meet these criteria. There is no criteria for lowering unemployment or ensuring adequate standards of living across the EU.

Are there any other comparable examples of single currencies?

The only other example of a single currency is the Yankee Dollar. Yankee because in the aftermath of the 1860s war between the states the Confederate dollar became worthless and the US moved towards monetary union. Full monetary union was not achieved until 1913, 137 years after independence. The EU is trying to achieve the same in just over 40 years.

In the aftermath of monetary union in the USA the process of internal migration away from rural areas in the centre states towards the eastern and western coastal urban centres increased rapidly, leaving many states economically devastated.

Green with envy

Here in An Phoblacht we always want to bring you the good news about ordinary everyday workers doing well. This week the spotlight is on the six executive directors of Green Property who bucked the trend of low wage increases enjoyed by workers who are party to Partnership 2000 agreement.

The salaries and bonuses earned by the six increased by nearly 32% in 1997 from £971,000 to £1.28 million, an average of over £213,000 each. Not bad going for a year's work.

Don't privatise Cablelink

Public Enterprise minister Mary O'Rourke is set to instruct Telecom Eireann management to sell off their 75% share in Cablelink. Apparently Minister O'Rourke is worried that ``clearly the full rigour of competition is not evident in this arena''.

This is an interesting analysis from the minister. However Cablelink is a highly desirable company and it is highly likely that a range of transnational media companies will bid for a slice of Cablelink, which offers unrivalled access to the TV viewing of most 26-County cities.

How much rigorous competition would there be if a multinational cable company bought Cablelink, or if god forbid a Murdoch or a Microsoft bought in? The simple answer is that there would be no competition but a public resource will have been sold off for short-term financial gain.

The real reason that Mary O'Rourke wants to sell off Cablelink is because its two owners Telecom and RTE are public sector companies and must be privatised according to EU dictats. Minister O'Rourke should face up to the reality that she is only the EU's privatisation messenger.

Ryanair sackings

SIPTU baggage handlers have appealed for intervention from Bertie Ahern to prevent Ryanair's sacking of three co-workers this week. The baggage handlers were still on trial at the company and were let go because of their ``general attitude towards work''.

Mangement denied that the dismissals had been prompted because the three baggage handlers had been involved in the still unresolved dispute.

SIPTU's Paul O'Sullivan described Ryanair's decision to sack the workers as one that ``most reasonable people will find totally abhorrent and unjust''.

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