By Stephen Boyd
ICTU’s biennial conference passed a motion opposing the implementation of water charges. However, this decision was opposed by the leaderships of two of the biggest unions, SIPTU and IMPACT.
O’Connor parrots FG / LP propaganda
SIPTU president and leading Labour Party member, Jack O’Connor once again showed how removed he is from the reality of the lives of his members. Rather than focus on how the trade union movement could assist working class people defeat this austerity charge – O’Connor instead took on the role of a government spokesperson asking where would the government find €500 million or €600 million that he falsely claims the water charge provides for public services.
Jack O’Connor told the conference, when he was discussing with the representatives of the 4,000 workers in the water service about the collective bargaining agreement that “protects” their jobs: “When their representatives came and asked me if water charges were abolished, can you guarantee us that the law and protection will stand, I could not and neither can any other person in this hall.”
What a pitiful response from someone who leads the biggest trade union in Ireland. The law has never guaranteed workers or working class people their employment rights or provided them with job security. The power of the unions in the guise of its members threatening to take strike action is what should and can be used to stop management and the government from destroying jobs and driving down pay and conditions.
“It is a bailout tax”
Motion 41 from Waterford Council of Trade Unions called on the conference to reject the imposition of water charges on the Irish people and call for a Constitutional Amendment that ensures that water remains in the ownership of the Irish people. IMPACT proposed an amendment that effectively negated the motion and instead called for higher free allowances. In other words supported the implementation of the water charges! This amendment was defeated and the Waterford motion passed.
Terry Kelleher, a CPSU delegate, argued that water charges represented a first step to privatisation and “It is not about funding a service or about conservation. It is a bailout tax”.
The passing of the motion opposing water charges was met with chants of “we won’t pay” from some delegates. If this motion is to have any meaning then unions who have a track record of actively campaigning against the water charges in the South and in the North, Unite, CPSU, Mandate, NIPSA and so on should demand at the next ICTU executive meeting that the trade union movement put its full resources behind the struggle of working class people to defeat the charges and back the call for a boycott and non payment campaign.