Ictu votes to support Lisbon Treaty Yes vote


The executive council of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has voted to support a Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

At a meeting in Dublin this morning the council voted 14 to 5 in favour of supporting the treaty. There were 8 abstentions.

The result is a major boost for the Yes campaign as Congress represents more than 600,000 workers in various unions across the country.

Speaking after the vote, Ictu General Secretary David Begg expressed satisfaction that Congress had adopted a clear position on “an issue of major public importance.” He said that Congress would now be recommending a Yes vote in the June 12th referendum. He also pointed out that this did not preclude individual, affiliated unions from advising their members on a different course of action.

The Irish Alliance for Europe welcome the Ictu decision. "We in the Alliance for Europe played a key role in delivering today's result but I want to particularly acknowledge the contribution made by Irish Alliance member Blair Horan and the public comments of David Begg and Impact in advance of today,” said Chairperson Ruairí Quinn.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore also welcomed the decision and said the decisive nature of the vote was particularly encouraging.

“I hope that all workers will now follow the advice given by the leadership of the Irish trade union movement and support the ratification of a Treaty that will provide significant additional safeguards for workers through the Charter of Fundamental Rights,” he said.

Mr Begg, Impact general secretary Peter McLoone, and Civil, Public and Services Union general secretary Blair Horan have all previously spoken in favour of the Treaty, which is subject to a referendum on June 12th.

Speaking at the biennial delegate conference of the trade union Impact in Kilkenny last week, Mr Begg said the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which will be incorporated in the new treaty, contained provisions that would improve protections for workers.

Mr McLoone said the Charter of Fundamental Rights was "a prize" that trade unions across Europe had pursued for "many, many years."

However, the State's largest craft union, the Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) is advising its 45,000 members to vote No claiming that recent judgments by the European Court of Justice show workers' rights have been sidelined in favour of big business.

TEEU general secretary designate Eamon Devoy said: "Some trade union leaders may talk optimistically about the Social Charter and what it might achieve, but recent key judgements by the European Court of Justice show the direction in which the EU is heading, and it is in favour of big business.

"In the circumstances it would be foolish to provide the institutions of the European Union with more power.”

He said the judgements in the Laval and Viking disputes that accepted workers had the right to organise in unions were negated by saying that workers could not undertake industrial action where it conflicted with the provision of goods and services, regardless of the social consequences.

“In the recent Ruffert case the court found that a Polish subcontractor operating in Germany was entitled to pay his workers less than half the agreed minimum wage for the construction sector, because the right to provide unrestricted services took priority over collective wage agreements,” Mr Devoy said.

“We do not want to surrender even more of our sovereignty to institutions that prize the 'race to the bottom' over people's aspirations to a living wage and decent working conditions," he added.

One of Ictu's largest member unions, Unite, is also recommending a No vote. Ireland's largest union, Siptu, is still considering its position.