Labour and unions accused of ’selling out’ public sector workers in pay deal

Independent TDs and union representatives say Siptu leadership has lost confidence of members

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

ELAINE EDWARDS

The Labour Party and trade union leaders have been accused of selling public service workers “down the river” in recommending the Haddington Road pay deal.

A number of independent TDs and trade union representatives told a press conference in Dublin the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill published last week was a “draconian” piece of legislation which would result in people losing their homes.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the legislation was being rushed through the Dáil this week in an attempt to subvert the democratic wishes of public sector workers who had voted against the pay deal.

Mr Boyd Barrett said the Government, with the complicity of some leading trade union officials, was attempting to “ram this through” and essentially “put a gun to the heads” of workers. He said the legislation was “anti-democratic and anti-trade union”.

“It gives extraordinarily draconian powers to the minister of the day to impose changes and cuts in the pay and conditions of public sector workers in such a way that really fundamentally undermines trade unionism, trade union democtracy and the whole basis of collective bargaining.”

Mr Boyd Barrett said he believed it was “outrageous” that Labour’s Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin was “complicit” in what was one of the most serious attacks on trade unionism and on the public sector than had been seen for a very long time.

Important legislation was being “rammed through” the Dáil using guillotines, which were an attempt to subvert proper democratic debate, he said.

Two members of Siptu involved in a new grassroots movement within the State’s largest trade union claimed there was a loss of confidence in the union’s president Jack O’Connor.

Alan Lawes of the Health Services branch of Siptu said the credibility of the Labour Party had to be called into question when it was supporting “Thatcherite” legislation going through the Dáil.

The credibility of leadership within Siptu also had to be called into question, he said. “They are putting the same deal in front of their members once again that 75 per cent of the members of Ictu rejected. I’m looking at Jack O’Connor - he has lost total credibility within Siptu. The members are very angry with Siptu.”

He said his members within the grassroots movement would reject the pay deal.

John Lynch, also of Siptu, said the Haddington Road deal was basically the Croke Park deal “with a different cover on it”. He added: “This deal is of no benefit to anyone at all.”

Public servants could not afford to take the proposed cuts and increased austerity would result in more shops closing and in the “total collapse of infrastructure”, he said. “We do appreciate that the country was in crisis but the public service have given enough. We have no more to give.”

Also present at the event were independent TDs Clare Daly, John Halligan and Joan Collins, and John Kidd of the Firemen’s and Emergency Services Association.

Ms Daly said it was “patently not in the public interest” to take €1 billion out of the economy - money which public servants would spend on services. “It is a scandal that it is being done in the way it is.”

Ms Daly said Labour and the trade union movement had tried to set workers against workers in their “sectoral” approach to the pay agreement.

Separately, the ’No2CrokePark2 Campaign’ said the emergency measures Bill was “a fundamental attack on trade union rights and is being used to bully trade union members into accepting the Haddington Road Agreement”.

The group will hold a protest outside Leinster House tomorrow, Wednesday.

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