The Joe Higgins Column July 2009

IN THE course of the Dublin Euro Election Campaign our posters stated that, if elected, I would be a voice for workers and the unemployed. That is a crucial role that I will endeavour to fulfil.

Although those elected on 5 June don’t become Members of the European Parliament until 14 July at the first plenary meeting of the Parliament in Strasbourg, the new debate which has just opened up on the Lisbon Treaty means there is no time to be a silent voice until then.

 

The issue of workers’ rights will arise prominently in the campaign to force the Irish people to vote again on this Treaty. The Charter of Fundamental Rights is to be formally accorded Treaty status as part of Lisbon.

While this sounds impressive, it is highly misleading because the rights in the Charter are not so fundamental after all. The Charter itself in Article 52 states that the rights mentioned in it are subject to the treaties of the European Union and decissions of the European Court of Justice. The Court has found on numerous occasions that under these treaties, contractors have the right to undercut agreed wages and conditions that aren’t enshrined in law. What we are being asked to do therefore is agree to institutionalise a document that puts the rights of bosses to exploit labour above the right of workers to resist through industrial action.
For my first months in the European Parliament the question of Lisbon will certainly merit a lot of debate both in Dublin and Brussels.

A seat in the European Parliament provides a platform to stand shoulder to shoulder with workers in Ireland who are involved in struggle on various issues. That is why my role will crucially be very much focused on Dublin and Ireland while participating in the debates and other work in Brussels and Strasbourg,
Building international solidarity will be a very crucial role for a Socialist Party MEP.  There is an urgent need to link up the struggles of working people across the borders of Europe’s states. The capitalist media deliberately fail to highlight significant mobilisations of workers in opposition to the neo-liberal policies of various governments throughout Europe.  

Through the labour movement and socialist press, and even when possible through the capitalist mass media, the position of MEP can allow workers’ struggles to be publicised and especially with the aim of building international solidarity.

Undoubtedly as well, there will be a demand for the MEP’s office to intervene in the case of workers being persecuted for involvement in the labour movement in countries outside Europe which have dictatorial regimes. This will be an important responsibility especially for an MEP affiliated to the Committee for a Workers’ international which has very active groups in many of these countries. Our office will have to intervene with such governments to warn them that we will highlight such repression and will hold them responsible before the world should harm come to such activists.

Before becoming fully operational in the role, there are daunting logistical tasks to be carried out. MEPs need offices in both Brussels and Dublin and fulltime co-workers who are highly skilled in political interventions and in representational and important secretarial tasks. Putting all this together is quite demanding but it is a crucial part of the work ahead. We will endeavour to ensure that this huge honour accorded the Socialist Party by ordinary people in Dublin is fully used to assist the struggle for justice on many fronts and the struggle for a new democratic socialist society.