The outgoing president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has strongly criticised the Labour Party over its role in Government.
Speaking at the Ictu biennial delegate conference in Belfast, Eugene McGlone said hehad listened to members of his own union, Unite, genuinely question why the party to which they loyally belonged had cast them adrift.
He said it was “not pleasant to hear good comrades, ordinary decent working people look at the party of labour and see no difference between it and Fine Gael”.
"Now I understand that there are those, in this movement, some in this room who hold the view, and I don't deny them their entitlement to do so, that the Labour Party has over the past two years softened the bark of Fine Gael, things they believe would have been a lot worse if Labour had not been in coalition. Well has it, could it - I do not think so.
“One hundred years after the Lockout and two years of this current Coalition - Labour has been involved in them before - there is still no right to trade-union recognition, no right to collective bargaining, although this has been promised in the current Programme for Government.”
Mr McGlone said he hoped Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore would give an indication about the Government's plans for legislation in a scheduled address to the conference tomorrow.
“I also hope that if he does it’s not some Fine Gael-proofed measure designed to alleviate the fears of the party of business.
"If he does produce something worthwhile then it might be the beginning of a new partnership between the complimentary arms of the labour movement in Ireland. That is to be welcomed and embraced."
However, it subsequently emerged that Mr Gilmore will not now be addressing the conference, as he is to travel to Strasbourg.
Meanwhile, Ictu general secretary David Begg called for a major programme of social investment in the face of "irrefutable evidence that austerity is not working".
He said realisation was dawning that the plan was not working and "we know that a Europe with some 26 million people out of work is simply not sustainable.
“Now is the hour to push for social investment and the construction of institutions of the social market economy to balance the power and independence of the ECB. Now is the critical juncture to seek a commitment to the mutualisation of debt. Now is the time to demand nothing less than the reflation of the European economy,” Mr Begg said.
He strongly condemned the treatment of staff in the fomer Anglo Irish Bank (now IBRC) and said he had raised this issue with senior Ministers.
“I think people were still shocked and certainly offended, by the boorish and cynical behaviour of the senior managers of Anglo Irish Bank revealed in the tapes made public last week.
“But justifiable anger at this behaviour should not blind us to the fact that the union members in IBRC are every bit as much victims of their conduct as are the taxpayers.
"I do not believe it is acceptable to this Congress for staff to be thrown on the side of the road with just statutory redundancy, and I have said this to the Minster for Finance Michael Noonan in no uncertain terms."
Siptu president Jack O’Connor said that only by immediately abandoning the one-sided austerity was there even a slim chance of Ireland meeting the commitment to its international lenders to reduce the Government’s deficit to under 3 per cent by 2015 and to exit the troika “straitjacket”.
“It can be done by deploying the breathing space afforded by the promissory note deal to offset further cuts, accommpanied by a major campaign across all departments and public institutions to lever in the €6 billion which has been redesignated from the National Pension Reserve Fund for strategic investent.”
Mr O’Connor also said Fine Gael “must lift its veto” on a tax contribution from the wealthy and those on high incomes to generate a further €1 billion over two budgets.