News that five trade unions the INMO, IMO, Unite, ASTI and the Civil Public and Services Union have recommended rejection of the proposed Croke Park Deal will be welcomed by workers across the State affected by the proposals. Significantly the unions cover workers across a large part of the public sector including Education, Civil Servants and Health. INMO, IMO, Unite and the CPSU organise 70,000 members. That combined with opposition within IMPACT and SIPTU, from other workers in the 24/7 Frontline Alliance indicates that the deal is far from done. Significant also is that they are considering opposing the deal even if the big unions accept.
So why is the proposal creating so much discontent? The employers and the Coalition, standing right behind them, state that the pay cuts affect highly paid workers. Their argument is that these are the very people who ought to be making a fair contribution.
The reality is however that the proposal means massive cuts for lower paid workers who are reliant on payments for unsocial hours working to make ends meet. That alongside threats to increase the working week and further pressure for redeployment, it’s no surprise workers are angry. The threat of compulsory redundancy, supposedly off the agenda, is hanging there like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of tens of thousands.
This contradiction sums up the situation in the State. The government and the ruling class backed up by the Troika are desperate to place the whole of the burden of the economic crisis onto the backs of the public sector workers. It is no surprise that workers are angry. How many thousands of euro have been siphoned out of hard working families pockets over the last five years? Emergency budgets, pension levies, Household taxes and welfare cuts while the bosses are paying a pittance in corporation taxes and the bankers and speculators are still taking their cut.
It is no surprise that the ICTU leaders are anxious to do a deal. That is what they do. Eventually there will be a deal. But the content of the deal is of decisive importance. The experience of the negotiations of 2009 and 2010 was that militancy on behalf of the members, mass demonstrations and the threat of industrial action eventually forced the hand of the government, against the wishes of the FF TDs, to agree a deal with no wage cuts and no compulsory redundancies. It is the height of irresponsibility on behalf of the ICTU leaders to expect workers to accept the current proposal which is a gigantic step backwards.
We fully support the rejection of the proposals and the prospect of a campaign of opposition across the State. That campaign should be taken into IMPACT and SIPTU also. It is significant also that SIPTU have delayed their decision on recommending or rejecting the deal. Jack O’Connor believes that this is the best deal that can be won through negotiation. But with a coordinated campaign of strike action, rallies, demonstrations and explanation of a clear alternative to the membership it is more than likely that the government would be forced to retreat. Already, the Independent reports that the health unions may be offered a sweetener for new entrants to the service. A 24 Hour General strike would give workers a sense of their own strength and would demonstrate their willingness to struggle.
The Irish working class is facing the biggest economic crisis in the history of the state. Capitalism has failed to deliver. The campaign to defend wages and conditions needs to be linked to the struggle for the socialist transformation of society. Without a fundamental transformation, the austerity could last for years. The bosses will continue to come back for more, the youth will emigrate and the oild and the sick will suffer. There is a lot riding on these negotiations. Its time to dig in and fight to defend jobs and conditions.