Siptu to seek pay rises if Government exceeds deficit target
Higher wages would stimulate domestic demand, union president Jack O’Connor says
Siptu president Jack O’Connor defended the Labour Party’s record as junior Coalition partner. Photograph: Conor McCabe.
The country’s largest trade union, Siptu, has said it will propose “a radical drive” for pay rises right across the economy if the Government exceeds its target of reducing the budget deficit to 5.1 per cent of GDP for next year.
Addressing the union’s biennial delegate conference in Dublin tonight, Siptu president Jack O’Connor said the only way to achieve the ultimate deficit target of 3 per cent of GDP by 2015 was to increase the size of the economy by about €13 billion by then. He said this could not be achieved if domestic demand continued to be suffocated.
“If they [the Government] insist on over-egging the pudding to impress the financial markets, there is another way to stimulate domestic demand and that is by substantially increasing pay,” he said. “Yes, significant pay increases against the background of five years of restraint would actually help the economy considerably.”
Mr O’Connor said a rise in real earnings need not dramatically affect the country’s export competitiveness. “Therefore if the adjustment exceeds the 5.1 per cent target we will propose that the private sector committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions should spearhead a radical new drive for pay increases across the economy.”
Mr O’Connor also strongly defended the Labour Party, which he said was defending working people to the limit of its electoral mandate.
‘Gates of hell’
“At the end of the day, unpopular and all as it is to say it, it comes down to the distinction between making noise and making a difference.
“They [the Labour Party] are battling at the very gates of hell, outnumbered by more than two to one and against the background of the straitjacket of the troika agreement. This is not apparent to people, but unless those of us who know it have the courage to say it there is a real danger that we will end up with a Government that will dismantle the core gains of a century of trade union work.”
The Siptu leader said he did not regard the budgets drawn up by the Government as being fair but neither did he subscribe the the “simplistic” view that “it was all all Labour’s fault”.
He said the elephant in the room was “the inconvenient truth that 60 per cent of those who went out to vote in the last election voted for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and the others who guaranteed the rich that they would be required to contribute little or nothing”. He suggested that, based on the current opinion polls, “if there were an election in the morning, those people would still command an absolute majority in the next Dáil”.
Mr O’Connor said the union had done everything it could to “to head off a single-party Fine Gael government or one dependent on a handful of right-wing independents”.
He suggested that, judging by its manifesto, a single-party Fine Gael government would have removed an additional €1.2 billion from the economy so far, would not have reinstated the legal mechanisms that protected the pay and conditions of more than 200,000 workers and would be selling off State enterprises such as airports, ports and harbours.
Mr O’Connor said Siptu had sanctioned industrial action in almost 40 cases over the past two years. He said: “In this regard, I want to make it absolutely clear that members who make democratic decisions by secret ballot vote to take action in defence of existing agreements or to advance their interests will receive our absolute and fullest support.”