Friday 17th June marks the 100th day of the Fine Gael/Labour government. Enda Kenny and Éamon Gilmore set out the first 100 days as being a time when they will make a significant impact on jobs and the economy. Voters were promised a jobs budget, renegotiation of the IMF/EU deal, and widespread reform. On all fronts they have failed. Fine Gael/Labour have continued the same failed austerity economics that the hated Fianna Fáil/Green government implemented.
During the election campaign Enda Kenny made a lot of his jaunts to Berlin to have tea with Angela Merkel. In these photo opportunities he portrayed himself as someone that would ‘renegotiate’ the IMF/EU deal. He has failed utterly to have even a single dot or comma of the IMF/EU deal changed. Irish taxpayers still have to pay an unsustainable debt which was created by property speculators and the banks. We need a complete rejection of the IMF/EU and a rejection of the idea that Irish workers should be burdened with a debt equivalent to nearly €100,000 each. In contrast to what is needed Fine Gael/Labour have even given up on a token renegotiation!
The special ‘jobs budget’ is what the 450,000 unemployed were promised to turn the tide of mass unemployment. This ‘jobs budget’ quickly got downgraded to an ‘initiative’ and what was eventually announced was nothing more than a cruel joke to the thousands on the dole. This ‘initiative’ was not a comprehensive public investment programme that would use the skills and talents of those on the dole to provide for the massive need in society. No. What we got was more gombeen economics. Their jobs ‘initiative’ was nothing more than a hand-out to employers with a slashing of their PRSI and the introduction of an internship programme that will supply them with cheap skilled workers.
When we want to examine the new government’s real record on jobs we only have to look at the plans Labour Party minister Brendan Howlin has. Howlin is currently drawing up a spending review that will result in 18-21,000 job losses in public sector employment. The public sector recruitment embargo will continue while at the same time there are newly qualified and skilled workers on the dole. Next week 1,200 Special Needs Assistants will be sacked from our schools. This is the true colour of Fine Gael/Labour’s jobs plans.
Labour boasted that there will be no cuts in welfare payments, instead now they want us to work an extra three years to get the state pension! One of the most regressive policies the new government has introduced is the rise in the pension age to 68. This is one of the most disgusting and socially regressive steps ever taken by an Irish government. Workers that have worked for decades are having three extra years being added to their working lives. The only people to gain from this are employers who will get more work and profits from their workforce and, scandalously, the finance industry as workers will be pressured to fund private pension schemes to bridge the gap in retirement income.
Water & Property Taxes
Another key announcement over the past 100 days was the Water and Property Taxes. These taxes will take hundreds of Euro from the incomes of all families. It will result in an increase in mortgage arrears and it will further deflate the economy. Already there are thousands of households with less than €70 a month in disposable income. The Water Tax and Property Tax is a serious attack on the incomes and living standards of ordinary people. When they are dreaming up a new taxation Fine Gael/Labour don’t hit the super wealthy or property speculators, oh no. Rather it is struggling householders that take the hit.
Third Level Fees
Despite their posturing over the years the Labour Party are now preparing for the re-introduction of fees for third level education. Labour’s Education minister Ruairí Quinn has put the question up for ‘review’ and despite all the talk of ‘increasing access’ the new fees will hit the poorest the hardest and make education more and more inaccessible.
Race to the Bottom in Wages
When it comes to stupid economics the Fine Gael/Labour government have continued where Fianna Fáil and the Greens have left off. This is evident when you look at their wages policy. The Labour Party claims that they reversed the €1 reduction in the minimum wage. This is pathetic when you look at the government’s plans to end the Registered Employment Agreements. Removing REAs will be a massive assault on the wages and terms and conditions of 200,000 low paid workers. Fine Gael/Labour actually believe they will ‘kick start’ the economy by reducing the wages of the poorest. The only thing this will benefit is the narrow gombeen interests of certain employers, while it will take millions of Euro out of the pockets of thousands of workers and further deflate the economy.
Build the Alternative
The Socialist Party is opposed to all the austerity measures that the Fine Gael/Labour government has announced. We believe these policies need to be actively opposed through community action, the trade unions and by young people. We intend to lead a fight against water and property taxes as we have done successfully in the non-payment campaign in the 1990s. We have also been campaigning vigorously on the ‘reform’ to REAs and against third level fees. If you are interested in getting active against the IMF/EU austerity measure the government are introducing make contact with the Socialist Party today.