Unite unveils anti-Lisbon campaign


Trade union Unite has urged its 60,000 members to reject the second Lisbon Referendum, saying it failed to protect workers' rights.

Officially unveiling its campaign against the treaty in Dublin today, Unite warned that the Government had failed to secure a clause that would prevent "social dumping and second class treatment of workers".

The union plans to hold a series of meetings covering members in financial services, energy, manufacturing, communications, health, education, local authorities and other sectors.

"These meetings will cover a range of issues facing our members but one clear message that will ring out is that a No vote is needed to prevent workers rights being ignored by our own government and dismantled by the European Courts," said Unite Irish regional secretary Jimmy Kelly.

"We are told by government and even by some trade unions that workers rights will be protected under Lisbon and that we are scare-mongering, but when the Irish government went seeking legal guarantees they got them in areas of taxation, of morality, and in numbers of commissioners but not in relation to workers rights."

Unite also opposed the original Lisbon Treaty, which was rejected last year by voters, for the same reason, and said the treaty on which people were being asked to vote a second time had failed to make any progress in this area.

Mr Kelly described the "solemn declaration" given in relation to workers' rights as "worthless".

"We are asked to have faith in our own government, that they will bring forward legislation that will protect Irish workers. We say today that we are fed up waiting for this legislation and that we have no faith in this government's ability or even willingness to deliver," he said.

He said Irish workers were alone in Europe in having no legal right to representation by a union and no provision for pension protection.

Unions had sought to include a "social progress" clause in the treaty to clarify that the fundamental right to organise and the right to strike were not subordinate to economic freedoms pursued by the EU member states. However, this was not included in either the original treaty or the guarantees that the Government sought from Europe before bringing Lisbon back to voters.

"Voting yes to Lisbon in the face of this would enshrine Irish workers lack of fair treatment as being alright in the eyes of Irish politicians and of the Irish people. EU institutions would continue to follow a business over labour ideology which is too loaded against workers all across Europe," Mr Kelly said.

Trade union leaders are divided on their attitude to Lisbon. Last week a group of trade unionists supporting the treaty said that it represented a major advance for workers.

The Charter Group, which is to launch its campaign tomorrow, said in a report that the evidence was that the EU had been a champion of workers’ rights for the past 35 years. Secretary of the group, Blair Horan of the CPSU said the report showed conclusively that it was the EU that protected workers’ rights in Ireland.