Unions to hold mass marches next week


TRADE UNIONS are to hold mass demonstrations in Dublin and other locations around the country on Saturday week, February 21st, in support of “a fairer approach” to tackling the current economic crisis.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) announced the date for the day of action ahead of the publication today of a 10-point plan setting out alternative economic adjustment measures to those proposed by the Government.

Ictu general secretary David Begg said yesterday that the campaign for a fairer approach to economic recovery would kick off with the demonstrations on Saturday week, but that it would be further developed over time.

However, speaking after a meeting of Ictu’s executive council, he said that it would be up to individual unions on whether to ballot members in relation to industrial action.

The Civil and Public Services Union (CPSU), which represents lower-paid civil servants, is currently balloting members for a one-day stoppage later this month.

Mr Begg said there was considerable anger among ordinary people that they, through losing their job or their home or having levies or pay cuts imposed, were being asked to carry the burden for the economic crisis, while those who had caused the problems were not being required to carry their fair share.

The Ictu 10-point plan represents a distillation of provisions set out in the trade union movement’s submission to the failed talks on economic recovery with the Government several weeks ago.

The new plan proposes that there should be a 48 per cent tax band for those with higher incomes, that a new property tax on second homes should be introduced and tax shelters should be abolished.

The 10-point plan also calls for the introduction of a three-year protection period for those facing house repossessions, as well as the removal of those at the top of the banking industry who were responsible for the current crisis.

The plan also describes the Government’s new pension levy for staff in the public sector as a “crude and unfair” measure.

It says that 85 per cent of those affected by the levy earn less than €60,000 per year.

The Ictu plan also proposes new measures to improve competitiveness and new initiatives to address unemployment.

It criticises the Government for using money from the National Pension Reserve Fund to recapitalise the banks while refusing to establish a fund to protect private sector pensions.

Mr Begg said that in an ideal world, unions would want the Government to re-engage with them on their new 10-point plan.

The chair of Ictu’s public service committee, Peter McLoone, said that he believed there was only one more chance for an agreement to be reached with the Government on a new economic recovery deal.

He said that if this did not work out, he believed people were “prepared to do more”.

“This will not require a lot of winding up. People are prepared to take action on a scale which we have not seen or experienced in a long time.”

Mr McLoone said the demonstrations could allow people to give expression to their anger.

Siptu president Jack O’Connor said neither employers, the Construction Industry Federation in the private sector, nor the Government were honouring the existing national agreements.

He said that inevitably this would result in sustained campaigns of industrial action “if they can not be persuaded otherwise”.

The announcement of the day of demonstration on February 21st now means that the unions effectively have a three-pronged strategy to try to encourage the Government to adopt an alternative approach to economic recovery.

This Saturday union members will carry out a mass lobbying campaign of TDs.

This will be followed by the day of action seven days later and by other protests or industrial actions which individual unions may stage at a later date.