Monday saw the beginning of negotiations between the government and Trade Union officials on the implementations of €4 billion worth of budget cuts in the public sector. €1.3billion of this burden is set to fall on public sector wages. (RTÉ November 9) This follows on from the ICTU demonstrations of over 100,000 across Ireland on Friday in opposition to cuts, and precedes the upcoming public sector strike on November 24th. It is all too clear that the past politics of social partnership can only lead to diminished service, job losses and attacks on pay and conditions.

Tens of thousands of people: public sector and private sector workers and their families, unemployed workers, pensioners and students thronged the streets of eight cities in the south on Friday, November 6; while 10 further demonstrations took place in the north also. 70,000 marched into Merrion Square in Dublin, 20,000 in Cork, 10,000 in Waterford, 6,000 in Galway, 5,000 in Sligo, 5,000 in Limerick, 4,000 in Tullamore and 1,500 in Dundalk. Not bad for a Friday with a grim weather forecast.

Friday’s day of protests by the Public Sector Trade Unions is a hugely important day for the Trade Union and Labour Movement. It could mark a significant step in the struggle to turn back the Fianna Fáil and Green Party’s assault on the Public Sector and on the working class in general. But what is the background to the current impasse and can Cowen and Lenihan face down the massive opposition that will manifest itself throughout the country later this week?

Members of the trade union IMPACT have voted 86% to 14% for strike action on a 69% ballot. This marks a dramatic shift over the past 7 months. But that’s hardly a surprise given the imposition of the levy, the slash and burn budget and the threats of cuts and redundancies and the general economic chaos and political crisis that threatens public sector workers.

It might have started out as a strategy, but the ICTU leadership’s profound belief that they can wrest some concessions out of Cowen and Lenihan would be better described as an illusion or perhaps a death wish. We’ve pointed out many times that in a slump social partnership is like the partnership between a cat and a mouse. But at least in Tom and Jerry the mouse was a master of tactics.

The Green Party has voted overwhelmingly to support the new proposals that their leadership has negotiated with Fianna Fáil. As we explained recently the reality is that the new programme offers nothing substantially different from what was on offer before, merely a few tiny reforms to the programme that FF set earlier. Its a cold plate of lame duck with wilted greens.

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