Unions to hold rallies for debt restructuring
DEMONSTRATIONS:Trade unions are planning to hold a series of demonstrations and rallies around the country in February to call for a restructuring of Ireland’s debt.
Unions have argued that such a restructuring of debt is a prerequisite for economic recovery and a necessary condition for the maintenance of social cohesion.
The proposed demonstrations will be timed to coincide with a meeting of the EU Council of Ministers and would take place in advance of the planned payment of €3.1 billion by the Government on the Anglo Irish Bank promissory note.
The executive of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is to consider the proposal for the demonstrations next Wednesday. However, it is expected to back the plan as it is supported by most of the large unions.
General secretary of congress David Begg said if the rallies were successful it would show there had been a shift in attitude among the public to say “we were promised some relief but this has not been forthcoming”.
Speaking at a post-budget briefing yesterday, Mr Begg said: “Perhaps the biggest single problem we face is the debt – the debt of private banks and speculators that was foisted on to the citizens of this country. That debt is a millstone and it is difficult to see how we can extract ourselves from this crisis without action on this key issue. We hope to mobilise people all over the country – especially working families, who are bearing the brunt of this crisis.”
Mr Begg said there was no comfort in Ireland constantly being held up as the “best performer” in the class. “We need to make a strong impression on the European leadership and our own Government that we are sleepwalking to disaster unless we change course. We have to put the issue of debt front and centre.”
The proposal would involve demonstrations being held on Saturday, February 9th, in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Sligo, Limerick and Waterford.
Congress said the budget contained some good and bad points. Its chief economist, Paul Sweeney, said the abolition of the PRSI allowance meant €5 being taken weekly from people’s wages and was “really regressive”. He said the cut in the carer’s payment was very regressive. He also criticised the Government’s decision to cut capital expenditure by €500 million. “We are below Greece on our investment levels.”
“The pensions reform which will bring in €250 million is very welcome.” He said the property tax seemed reasonably progressive, although congress would like to see it tweaked a bit.