Union ties no help to Labour, says Quinn


THE LABOUR Party suffers a negative impact from its close relationship with the trade union movement, according to former party leader Ruairí Quinn.

He addresses the issue in a new book entitled The State of the Unions, edited by Tim Hastings, which was launched last night.

Mr Quinn said that the party is expected by the unions to promote their demands in the Oireachtas and this sometimes helps to strengthen the hand of the unions in their dealings with Government.

"However, the ultimate compromise results in the trade unions voting to accept far less than what they had urged the Labour Party to demand."

Mr Quinn said that, while this was understandable, the attitude of union leaders at election time that they cannot be too pro-Labour was not. This phenomenon had increased with time.

"What now seems to be emerging, according to Labour Party activists and elected deputies and Senators, is that the Labour Party is getting the worst of both worlds. On the one hand, we are blamed, or lose support, when a strike, stoppage or unacceptable work practice emerges in a key public service, such as public transport, discommoding consumers and citizens alike.

"On the other hand, the members of those trade unions do not give sufficient votes to Labour Party candidates in return for the Labour Party's support.

"It is hard to quantify or specify just how this is affecting the perception of the Labour Party, but it is felt now more than in the past that the impact is negative," said Mr Quinn.

In the book, Mr Quinn reveals that the union merger that brought about the creation of Siptu was, in some respects, driven by a desire to curb the growing influence of the Workers' Party in the late 1980s and early 1990s.