By Stephen Boyd
COMMENTING ON the aftermath of the budget, Stephen Collins political editor of The Irish Times said: “This year the silence has been eerie, mainly because the large body of PAYE workers who are being hammered by the budget have no one to directly represent their interests.”
Six hundred thousand of those PAYE workers are members of trade unions and yes, they aren’t being represented by their “leaders.” Aside from a few comments bemoaning aspects of the budget, there was an “eerie silence” from the so-called leaders of the trade union movement.
This is not surprising. The day before the budget, an agreed statement from the “social partners” on “Discussion on a National Recovery Programme” was issued saying that talks would resume after the budget. It said “the best chance of laying the foundations for a sustainable economic recovery lies in an integrated response agreed through the social partnership process….”
The budget attacks on working class people will not derail these talks. The union leaders are committed to doing all that they can to help the government and big business “manage” the recession even if that means 500,000 unemployed and major cuts in living standards.
The ICTU leaders’ betrayal of working class people is being done in the name of “social solidarity”. The budget was “social solidarity” capitalist style – the working class taking all of the pain yet the multinationals and big business weren’t taxed by one extra cent!
The government and the employers are using the recession to implement major attacks on workers’ rights. Profitable companies are demanding change under the threat of job losses or closure. The same is now in store for public sector workers. The “social partnership” road will not save jobs or prevent the cutbacks and tax hikes. It hasn’t stopped the jobs slaughter at Dell, SR Technics, or Waterford Crystal.
ICTU’s call for a national strike on 30 March was a cynical ploy aimed at restarting the social partnership talks. Yet despite weeks of propaganda from all the main parties opposing the strike, including Labour, a majority of trade unionists voted to go on strike.
Undoubtedly workers throughout the private sector are fearful of losing their jobs and amongst a majority of people there is trepidation at what is in store for them and their families in the next few years. However, if a lead was given, the majority of trade unionists would engage in industrial action and campaigns against the budget attacks and the jobs slaughter and the government and employers could be defeated.