Mandate to advise No vote on fiscal treaty

Mon, Apr 23, 2012, 01:00

THE PROSPECT of the Government getting limited or no support from the trade union movement for the referendum on the EU fiscal treaty increased yesterday when Mandate said it was advising a No vote to its members.

The announcement made by general secretary John Douglas received a negative reaction from the Government. Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton of the Labour Party described it as disappointing, while Fine Gael’s Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton challenged Mandate’s claim that a Yes vote would not create any jobs in the country.

The decision by the union’s executive comes in the wake of a detailed Siptu document last Thursday which portrayed the treaty as a one-sided austerity proposal. The union said it would only be prepared to overcome its deep misgivings and countenance a Yes vote if the Government announced a major stimulus programme that would offset the ongoing austerity contained in fiscal policy.

The 35-strong executive of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) will meet on Wednesday morning to decide the position it will adopt on the referendum.

In a briefing paper prepared for the meeting, secretary general David Begg said there was a gun “pointed at our heads” because of the threat of losing funding from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in the event of a No vote.

Mr Begg said Ictu was stuck between a rock and a hard place. In the paper, circulated to the executive, he said the instinct of unions throughout the EU was to oppose the treaty.

“The problem for us is that we are a programme country with the gun of the ESM pointed at our heads”.

He said that if Ireland was unable to access ESM funds in the event of a second bailout, the only path open would be a sovereign default as had happened in Greece, with a “fairly quick and brutal realignment of revenue and expenditure”. He said the decision on the treaty was finely balanced.

Mr Douglas, speaking at his union’s conference in Wexford, asserted that Mandate made no apology in campaigning for a No vote in the referendum on May 31st.

“The fiscal treaty, if passed, will not create one job: on the contrary, it will legally lock down Irish economic activity at its current levels. It may even shrink domestic demand further, leading to mass unemployment, decades of emigration and sow the seeds for future social conflict,” he said.

Ms Burton suggested Mandate’s advice to its members to vote No was premature. “The national debate on the stability treaty is only now getting under way and it would have been preferable to have a discussion on the pros and cons . . . before taking a position.”