Socialist Worker

Irish workers’ anger at brutal cuts held back

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2182

The economic crisis in Ireland has resulted in a series of vicious attacks on workers.

Last week the governing Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition pushed through more regressive policies.

The government claimed it had to raise four billion euros to cover the national debt.

But just a few months before, it put four billion euros into bailing out the Anglo-Irish bank.

Bizarrely, finance minister Brian Lenihan argued that the country was “on the way to recovery”.

Yet the equivalent of more than £6 a week has been cut from the jobseekers’ benefit, the carer’s benefit, and disability and invalidity payments.

Payments are being halved for those aged 20 to 21 years old.

The average public sector worker will lose one and a half days’ pay a month because of the budget.

This is on top of a 7 percent cut in the guise of a “pension levy”. Overall, that makes three days’ pay a month.

Public sector unions, charities and NGOs are furious over cuts in benefits and workers’ pay. The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation says the average primary teacher’s salary will be reduced almost a quarter.

The three main teachers’ unions are moving towards industrial action in the new year. Even the police are balloting for strike action.

Last month, more than a quarter of a million workers showed their power when they struck against the cuts.

But the dead hand of the union leaders went to work. On the day of the strike, Irish Congress of Trade Unions leader Peter McLoone said that unions had already accepted “the need for temporary wage adjustments”.

He was soon followed by the leader of the largest union, SIPTU, Jack O’Connor, who even said that wages had grown too high during the “Celtic Tiger” years.

Union leaders promised that they could get their members to do “more for less”. But the government ignored them and went ahead with all its proposed cuts anyway.

The trade union bureaucracy is trying to hold back the rage of workers.

There are daily protests against the austerity measures of the government.

The pressure for coordinated action is growing, but as yet union leaders have prevented that anger turning into the determined strike action that could stop the cuts.

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Tue 15 Dec 2009, 17:35 GMT
Issue No. 2182
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