Delegates in no mood to accept Ictu or Government calls for social solidarity


ANALYSIS:WHILE THE cool reception given to Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe at the TUI conference may have caught most of the media attention yesterday, the mood of anger and frustration had been evident and building from the opening day.

Just how deeply that anger ran became most clear yesterday morning during a debate on a series of emergency motions on pension levies and recruitment embargoes submitted to conference over the past few weeks including some since last week’s Budget.

The mood of militancy was perhaps best caught in an attempt by the executive committee to defer a motion from Dublin Colleges stating the union would not be bound by any national agreement entered into by Ictu that does not remove the public service pension levy.

Speakers from the committee had argued that it should be referred back for further consideration but delegates were having none of it after a rousing speech from Eddie Conlon from Dublin Colleges who castigated Ictu for indicating it would accept the levy.

“David Begg has said publicly that he does not oppose the pension and that we will accept the pension levy. Well, ‘Hello David – where did you get a mandate to say that?’ Why does the leader of the Ictu think he can go on public radio and say that he’s not against it.

“Ictu says it wants a social solidarity pact. The Government’s idea of social solidarity is the people who gathered at the hospitality tent at the Galway Races, their banker and developer friends. They have lots of solidarity for them – no taxes in the Budget, bail out the banks.

“We’re being asked to pay – no solidarity with the poor family who can’t afford to buy their kids schoolbooks, no solidarity with pensioners who are going to lose their Christmas bonus, no solidarity with PAYE worker who gets hit with a €1.4 billion bill in the last Budget.”

Ictu had earlier come in for a similar lambasting from former TUI president Paddy Healy over its willingness to re-enter talks with the Government while it proceeded to introduce a Budget which “took huge lumps of money out of our pockets”.

“We need a congress who know how to fight and whose loyalty is not the boards of State companies or to junkets but to our members who pay their dues and are struggling to pay their mortgages and creche fees who are being devastated by this Government.

“What we need is a new fighting strategy and people need to know that if they are in a war . . . that we’re not lions led by donkeys – we’ve been led by donkeys for long enough.”

Just how devastating the various Government levies are proving for teachers was revealed by Gerry Craughwell from Dún Laoghaire branch when he spoke about a teacher he knew, who as a result of the Budget, is now left with €50 a week disposable income. “She’s part of the new middle class of Ireland, the people we are here today representing and the thieves in the Bank of Ireland and AIB and the property developers and the politicians in Dáil Éireann are telling us we must take pain, they don’t know the meaning of the word ‘pain’.

“We get a certain amount of flak in the press about how we have good solid secure jobs but a teacher with €50 a week disposable income – that’s not a good job . . . if she was on the dole she would get a medical card but all she’s facing now is pay cuts.”