By Ray McLoughlin
BAUSCH AND Lomb – 200, KPMG – 200, lay offs in the first week of March continue the disastrous pattern of job losses in Ireland. Over 300 people were made redundant each working day in February in the South, 63,198 signed on the dole in the first two months of 2009! Unemployment is skyrocketing towards 500,000.
Redundancies are happening in all sectors, light engineering, construction, financial services. Further job losses are being proposed in transport, education and across the public services. Workers are looking into a black abyss of job losses, with all the consequent hardships and uncertainties facing them and their families? What leadership are the trade union leaders giving to the victims of this failure of capitalism?
The leaders of ICTU continue to hover around doorways at Government Buildings in Merrion St hoping to be invited in to sit round the table to negotiate with the same representatives of the government and employers that have brought the economy to its knees. Can they genuinely believe that they can persuade these people to “share the pain”? Instead of balloting on preserving “T2016” or their “10 Point Plan”, they should be leading an all out war against the government and the employers.
The workers in Waterford Crystal have shown their willingness to fight. They are continuing their occupation that began in January. Unfortunately, the strategy of their leaders in UNITE is to negotiate with companies that they know have no intention of maintaining the current job levels in the company.
NBRU leaders in Dublin Bus are suggesting that older workers should be offered “voluntary” redundancies instead of younger workers. Dublin City is crying out for a decent transport system. The environmental argument alone is reason enough for continued investment in public transport systems. These, and all trade union leaders, should be fighting to prevent any job losses across the public and private sector.
Every redundancy should be fought tooth and nail. Employers should receive a “bloody nose” every time they attempt to attack jobs or pay and conditions. What is needed now is not meek acceptance of the inevitability of redundancy (whether compulsory or voluntary) or closures but a strident assertion that if the employing class can’t provide jobs then the workers themselves will step in to provide an alternative.
Workers leaders should propose alternative economic programmes for major improvements to the public infrastructure of the state – the schools, colleges, hospitals, the transport system. Genuine nationalisation of the banks, integrated into the state financial system, could provide the capital necessary for these projects. A state bank could also provide loans to small businesses and enterprises.
In the period up to and during the 1913 Lockout many of the trade union leaders spoke of “good employers” and bent over backwards to reach “accommodations” with the employers organisations and to sell out the magnificent struggle of a nascent working class fighting for the right to live. The current leadership of the ICTU are following in their infamous footsteps trying to do deals with the very bosses who are sacking thousands the length and breadth of the country.
The alternative is to get involved in the fightback to reclaim the unions and return them to the fighting traditions of Connolly and Larkin and a struggle against redundancies. We also need to build a new mass working class party committed to removing the cancer of capitalism and replacing it with a socialist society that will guarantee decent jobs for all.