Warning from Ireland: "Public service pay cuts will be considered"

The Irish government is looking for €2bn worth of cuts and that means pay cuts for public sector workers.

Well, sooner or later it had to come. As we have been saying recently sooner or later the bourgeoisie, and not just the Irish bosses, would come for their pound of flesh. After all, someone is going to have to pay for the crisis and it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that it’s us.

The government is looking for €2bn worth of cuts and that means pay cuts for public sector workers. Photo by informatique.
The government is looking for €2bn worth of cuts and that means pay cuts for public sector workers. Photo by informatique.

So the government is looking for €2bn worth of cuts and that means pay cuts for public sector workers. As Batt O’Keeffe the education minister pointed out the government “would have to govern”. Strange that they choose exactly the same policy that the British and American governments used in the 1930s. The same policies that helped deepen and prolong the slump. The question must be; in whose interests are the Fianna Fáil ruling? Not ours, for sure.

Lessons of Thatcherism

More recently we need only look over the water to see what happens when the bosses let their dogs off the leash. The British bourgeoisie launched a series of vicious attacks on the working class under Margaret Thatcher. All this was carried out under the slogan that “there is no alternative”. This wasn’t helped by the attitude of the British trade union leaders who insisted in large measure of “turning the other cheek”. Hiding your head in the sand is no option.

How are the Irish unions going to respond?

The crisis is very deep and the government is on the horns of a dilemma, sooner or later they will be forced to attack workers living standards one way or another, after all the bosses won’t pay. But it’s not as straight forward as that the boom years have strengthened the working class and despite recent redundancies the trade unions are still more or less intact.

Under these conditions the best way to fight fire is with fire. We need a coordinated campaign to oppose every cut and every job loss. We can’t afford the bosses crisis. It’s of their making not ours. The leaders of the Trade unions are correct to campaign against wage cuts and it’s important to raise the threat of strike action as Jack O’Connor has done. But the campaign has to be taken to every workplace and every branch, already we’ve seen the (12 hour) occupation of the Swissco factory and it’s likely that we could see a whole series of defensive struggles over the next months.

We must have the full support of the Trade Union leadership for every struggle and have to demand the full support of the Labour TDs in the Dáil.

  • Make the bosses pay for the crisis
  • Not a second on the day, not a cent off the pay
  • No wage cuts, No redundancies
  • Nationalisation of any company announcing redundancies under Democratic workers control and management

Here is the recent SIPTU press release putting the position of the union leaders:

SIPTU President says Government can only resolve economic crisis with all sectors of society contributing their fair share

Date Released: 10 Jan 2009

Public sector trade unions need to fight against wage cuts. Photo by Labour Party Youth.
Public sector trade unions need to fight against wage cuts. Photo by Labour Party Youth.

Responding to remarks attributed to the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan in this morning’s Irish Independent, implying pay cuts in the public sector by the end of this month, SIPTU General President Jack O’Connor, who is also Joint Vice President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said that, “The scale of the figures presented by the Department of Finance yesterday are truly horrendous and they have enormous implications for our society and our economy. They are a consequence of the reckless agenda pursued by the PDs and the right wing of Fianna Fail between 2002 and 2007, during which our tax base was dismantled in the interests of the well off, capital taxation was all but abolished and top tax rates were reduced to a degree unparalleled in any developed western European country. All of this was camouflaged by the credit led property bubble it generated, which has now exploded against a background of an international depression, to the detriment of everyone in Ireland. It will require an unprecedented national effort, to which all sectors of society must contribute, to stabilise the economy over the next five to seven years.

“But the remarks attributed to the Minister suggest that he intends what we in SIPTU feared all along, i.e., trying to solve the problem at the expense of working people and the less well off in society. We believe that the unilateral imposition of cuts in rates of pay will meet with stout resistance from trade union members generally. If the Government sets about it in that way we in SIPTU, and I believe everyone else in the trade union movement as well, will do everything we possibly can to mobilise such resistance. The only way to successfully tackle the issues confronting us with any prospect of success is on the basis of all sectors of society contributing, and with those best able to do so, contributing the most.

“Equally, just as we have a responsibility to mobilise as much resistance as we possibly can against attempts to tackle the crisis at the expense of workers and the less well-off, we believe we also have a responsibility to provide leadership in circumstances where other sectors of society declare their willingness to contribute on a scale which reflects their capacity to do so. In such circumstances we in SIPTU are fully prepared to discharge our responsibilities and we believe that everybody in the trade union movement will be prepared to do so as well. The choice rests with the Government.”

January 22, 2009