To stop cuts and bailouts ICTU must take real action

In the September issue of the Union Post David Begg, ICTU general secretary and Jack O’Connor, ICTU president, argued against the government’s current economic policies. However, one thing was starkly missing from both of their statements – in fact it was missing from the whole newspaper – there was no mention of a strategy to defeat the government’s attacks on working people.

The front page headline in the Union Post proclaimed; “Fight cuts – Save Jobs – Protect services – People power”. But these “slogans” are devalued when they come from trade union leaders who have done nothing to fight the cuts or save jobs.

Even more so when these are the same union leaders who are facilitating the government’s cuts programme because of their support for the Croke Park Deal. This rotten deal will cost tens of thousands of jobs, decimate terms and conditions and cut services.

Ten million took part in the general strike in Spain on 29 September. Millions of French workers have gone on strike against Sarkozy’s austerity programme and in Greece there have been four general strikes in the last year. This is the type of radical action we need in Ireland, where the economic crisis is worse – not rotten deals or empty rhetoric from David Begg and Jack O’Connor.

We need major mobilisations of workers and the unemployed, but they need to be effective and purposeful. In 2009 ICTU cynically used the demonstrations and the magnificent one-day public sector strike as bargaining chips in their negotiations with the government.

The aim of protests and strikes should be focused on stopping the government, and the private sector employers attacks. A campaign of determined industrial action by public and private sector workers, linked to mass demonstrations could stop the cuts and bring down the government.

The Socialist Party is calling on trade union members to get motions passed in their union branches calling on their executives to campaign for the ICTU to name the day for major demonstrations linked to a one day general strike before the budget as the first step in a campaign of real action.

A strike and protests of this magnitude would shake the government and the political establishment and would be a signal that working class people are not going to sit back any longer and see our public services slashed, accept mass unemployment, extra taxes and pay cuts to bail out the rich who caused the crisis.

Union members need to come together and campaign to replace the current incompetent leaders who are overpaid, unaccountable and who have shown they are unwilling to fight to defend working class people. In order to end the control of the overpaid bureaucracy, trade union officials should be elected on a regular basis, subject to recall by the membership and paid the average wage of the members they represent.

Collectively we need to build opposition movements within every union around a programme for action based on greater democracy that wins control of the unions back for the members. Union activists from different unions should also link up in a united campaign to build opposition within the unions and workplaces against the government and the bosses.