30 July 1998 Edition
Workers in struggle
Broken promises on ICC Bank
Fianna Fáil renege on state bank commitment
The ``Nation's sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to ...all the wealth and all the wealth producing processes within the Nation''
``The Government will develop a vigorous third banking force from the State sector by merging the ICC Bank and ACC Bank and by seeking a merger of the new entity with the Trustee Savings Bank. The new State Bank will also develop strong links with the network of An Post for money transactions and banking services''.
This was just one of the many promises made by Fianna Fáil and Labour in 1993 when entering into the so-called Partnership Government. It is a promise ignored, passed over and quietly forgotten by successive governments and ministers of Finance
This week the commitment to a third force state bank was once again news. By announcing the sale of the state-owned ICC Bank, Fianna Fáil Finance minister Charlie McCreevy delivered the death knell to the state bank promise.
£200 million sell off
The 26-County exchequer will gain over £200 million and the Irish people will lose ownership of an important national resource. The decision to sell ICC Bank means that it is highly likely that ACC Bank and An Post's bankings services will be also be put up for sale and privatisation in the coming months.
So what has the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat coalition turned their back on this week. Apart from dishonouring an important election promise they have also given the private banking sector a free hand in the financial services market. Only the Credit Union Movement will be in a position to provide social banking services where the overwhelming demand for profit is not the primary motive.
The coalition have turned their back on a chance to construct a state bank which could take on the dominance in the market of Bank of Ireland, AIB, Ulster Bank and National Irish.
These banks are the most profitable businesses in Ireland. They are also the most profitable banks in Europe. A survey released in April by Datamonitor European Banking Database showed that Irish financial institutions had the highest profit margins of banks across 16 European States.
ICC Bank and ACC Bank were set up to provide financial services to industry and farmers respectively. The idea behind these banks was that they would offer financial services to those overlooked by the mainstream financial sector. Now in a time of economic growth the mainstream banking sector is going to be allowed take over the business they previously would have spurned.
Today ACC Bank will announce its profits and no doubt discussion over potential buyers for its branch network will dominate the financial reports on the annual results.
However a more important issue is being overlooked. The whole impetus behind the third force state bank plan was that it would provide a powerful alternative to the profiteering private financial sector. Nothing has changed in the financial sector since 1993 to lessen the need for a vibrant state banking service.
Indeed the last year has exposed a morass of corruption in private sector banking. On one hand we had the exposure of illegal banking practices where banks were participating in tax evasion on behalf of their elite customers.
Added to this are the ongoing scandals involving National Irish Bank stealing money from their customers. Now more than ever there is a need for a state bank.
The most powerful argument in favour of a state bank is the commitment made in the 1916 Proclamation and again in the 1919 Democratic Programme that the ``Nation's sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to all of its material possessions; the Nation's soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth producing processes within the Nation''.
This week Charlie McCreevy and coalition government have ignored this fundamental commitment to the Irish republic. There is it seems no role for social ownership of vital resources in their vision of a republic. Their republic is one of profiteering and self interest, where the rights of banks and private companies come before the rights of the people.
Ryanair must recognise workers rights
The IPC found that Ryanair's claim to pay their baggage handlers better wages than other airlines did not hold true.
What will it take to satisfy Ryanair management that they are always in the right and that their baggage handlers, SIPTU, the Labour Court, the Dublin Government, an independent inquiry team and now the Irish Productivity Centre (IPC) are in the wrong?
Last January baggage handlers at Ryanair began to take industrial action in protest at the company's refusal to recognise the right of SIPTU to negotiate on their behalf.
Ryanair ignored the Labour Court intervention in the dispute. They refused to take part in the industrial relations process set up by the state, a process which favours employers. They then rejected invitations from the Dublin Government to talks.
It was only when the whole of Dublin Airport was brought to a standstill that Ryanair management entered a negotiations process. The Dublin Government then had to create an industrial relations process that suited Ryanair with an enquiry team appointed to study the dispute.
Then the IPC found that Ryanair's claim to pay their baggage handlers better wages than other airlines did not hold true. Compared to British Midlands staff the IPC found a £5,000 difference in wages.
Now Ryanair are disputing the IPC figures and are seeking a judicial review, threatening to start High Court proceedings. One thing is clear from this dispute, that is the failure of the industrial relations procedures and legislation.
Ryanair have shown unwittingly the flaws in the 26 Counties industrial relations legislation. This legislation needs now to be changed to keep industrial disputes out of the High Court and force employers to recognise the rights of their workers. There can be no more Ryanairs.