Unions say big turnout shows depth of anger


ATTENDANCE:UNION LEADERS said the the turnout at Saturday’s national demonstration in Dublin showed the depth of anger among workers at the Government’s handling of the economic crisis.

Speaking after the march attended by an estimated 120,000 people, Irish Congress of Trade Unions president David Begg said workers from both the public and private sector had sent out a powerful message.

“The Government is looking at what’s happening here today and will conclude indeed that it does have a strong measure of public support and will engage with us and try to deal with what is an unprecedented problem with our country,” he said. Ictu, which organised the march, said it was campaigning for “a fairer and better way” of dealing with the economic crisis.

It said the demonstration was the first action in the union’s campaign and “other actions will follow around the country, as required”.

Impact, one of dozens of unions involved in the protest, said the turnout represented a huge outpouring of anger by members over issues such as the new pensions levy. It said public sector workers were ready to share the burden of economic recovery, but were angered by the way in which public servants were singled out for such a “harsh and inequitable” penalty.

The Civil Public and Services Union which represents around 13,000 lower paid civil servants, said the Government must now go back to the drawing board over the pensions levy. “This is a massive turnout and we’re saying, ‘no, go away and think again’,” said CPSU president Dennis Walsh.

“This isn’t a pension levy, it’s a pay cut and the Government needs to be honest about this.

“If they want our co-operation, they’ll have to learn to deal with people properly and not present this as a fait accompli to workers and then let bankers discuss whatever deals they want.”

Before the march, the Government released a statement in which it insisted that its cost-cutting measures were essential.

“The Government recognises that the measures which it is taking are difficult and, in some cases, painful,” it said.

“The Government is also convinced, however, that they are both necessary and fair. “They are necessary because it is essential that we show a credible start on the correction of an emerging unsustainability in our public finances.” It said failure to show such a “credible start” would would have a severe impact on the country’s international reputation among investors and, in particular, on its capacity to borrow money.

The Government insisted that the pension levy was “reasonable” and reflected the reality that the State was not in a position to continue to meet the public service pay bill due to declining revenue. “The income to be generated by the levy will reduce the cost of the public payroll and it will do so in a way which is progressive, with higher contributions being paid by those at higher levels of income,” it said.