Siptu leader will not vote unless jobs plan delivered

Mon, May 14, 2012, 01:00

THE LEADER of the Republic’s largest union says he plans to abstain in the vote on the fiscal treaty unless the Government delivers a fiscal stimulus package to create thousands of jobs.

Siptu president Jack O’Connor, a Labour Party member, yesterday made a fresh appeal to the Government to “offer hope in place of despair” by investing large sums in job-creation projects.

Asked how he planned to vote in the referendum on May 31st, he said he would abstain “unless things change between now and then”.

Last month, the union called for a “definitive proposal” from the Government before it was prepared to call on its 200,000 members to support the referendum. It said it would call for a Yes vote only in return for a commitment to a €10 billion stimulus package to create tens of thousands of jobs.

Speaking at the annual James Connolly commemoration at Arbour Hill in Dublin yesterday, Mr O’Connor acknowledged Labour’s “courageous” decision to go into Government “in the very worst of times when staying out would have been much easier”.

However, he told those present, including Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, there was an obligation on the party, even in austere times, to maximise the opportunities presented by the election of François Hollande as French president “on the back of the massive reaction to the suicidal, one-sided austerity approach”.

Mr Gilmore said he was encouraged by a rise in support for the fiscal treaty but cautioned against putting too much store in one opinion poll.

Some 53 per cent of voters say they will vote Yes in the referendum on May 31st, an increase of six points since the last poll two weeks ago, according to the Red C poll. Some 31 per cent plan to vote No, while 16 per cent of people remain undecided. Mr Gilmore said the strengthening of the Yes vote indicated by the poll reflected what Labour party canvassers were hearing on the ground.

Asked about the decision of a number of big trade unions to call for a No vote, the Tánaiste said that was their decision. He repeated his appeal to individual workers to approve the referendum on the basis that it was in their interest.

“Anyone who is working in a company which is exporting understands how important it is to have a stable euro. Public sector workers understand the need for access to emergency funding if we need it, and anyone out of work understands how important it is to get investment into the country to create jobs.”

He denied that Ministers planned to “bury” bad news until the referendum had taken place, saying Government was continuing as normal.

For the No campaign, Socialist party MEP Paul Murphy accused the Government of scaremongering about access to a second bailout. He said this partly explained the strengthening of the Yes vote in the latest poll. “I have met many people who are opposed to this treaty but are scared about the dire consequences promised by the Government in the event of a No vote.”

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said all was still to play for in the referendum campaign. “The electorate is only beginning to engage with this very important issue. We are getting very positive feedback on the doors,” she said.