Ireland: The Red Plough – Editorial

Right across the British Isles public services are under attack. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have called two days of strikes against cuts in redundancy pay. The British Government has put a cap on redundancy and hope to save over £500 million. The union fears it is the beginning of both massive redundancies in the public service and also creeping privatisation of those same public services.

The walkout is the biggest show of industrial unrest in the civil service since 1987. Courts, ports, job and tax centres and emergency police call centres are being affected by the walkout. In the North of Ireland 2,000 civil servants are taking part in the strike. PCS says members could lose a third of their entitlement over cuts under the civil service compensation scheme.

Meanwhile in the South of Ireland Union leaders have rushed to defend the public services from continuing government attacks. Sheila Nunan, General Secretary Designate, INTO, accused government of turning its back on its own workers in a vain attempt to find a solution to the ills of the Irish economy. She claimed a campaign of vilification had fuelled a “falsehood of an over-staffed, under-worked, well-paid, afraid to reform, unwilling to transform public service.”

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions are meeting to discuss an escalation of industrial action in the public sector aimed at trying to force the Government to reverse its decision to cut pay announced in the recent budget.

The first phase involved a work-to-rule. Now both IMPACT and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation will propose that Phase Two includes a series of rolling work stoppages. The Frontline Alliance, which represents nurses, gardaí and other emergency personnel, said it would support whatever decision is taken on further action by Congress.

As part of their campaign against pay cuts, the Garda Representative Association has said gardaí will refuse to use their own personal mobile phones, cameras, laptops and other equipment for work.

The rising tide of militancy transcends nationalities. Capitalism is no respecter of frontiers when it comes to making profits and workers have a shared interest in resisting attacks on their living standards. The current crisis in capitalism has spawned a militancy in the workers. It should now be clear in the South that the issue of “social partnership” is now dead.

The ICTU bureaucracy far from seeking agreements and a cosy relationship with the government needs to be pressurized from below. That pressure should be working towards the escalation of workers’ actions.

Other actions by the armed republicans do not advance either the struggle for a united Ireland or the establishment of any kind of socialism on the island of Ireland. Matters around this are dealt with in the article “A Normal State!” [...]

[Originally published in The Red Plough E-mail newsletter, Vol. 1, No 5, 8 March 2010]