News Archive

Jack O'Connor Conference speech 2013

Date Released: 07 October 2013

Address by Jack O’Connor, General President SIPTU To The SIPTU Biennial Delegate Conference Monday 7th October 2013

Vice President, Distinguished Guests, Delegates, Comrades and Friends,

Welcome to this historic room for Biennial Delegate Conference 2013, which marks the Centenary of the seminal moment in the story of the working class in this City and on this Island – which appropriately coincides with the World Day of Decent Work.

In the streets hereabouts, one hundred years ago, the Employers of Dublin, aided by the Police, the Media, the Political Elite and the established Churches, tried to batter their fellow citizens, the working people, into submission over six cruel and excruciating months.  They set out to deny them any say in the shape of the Ireland that was to follow Home Rule, by suppressing their fundamental right to Freedom of Association, which they chose to exercise by organising into Jim Larkin’s incipient Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union.

Both sides correctly saw in this new Union a vehicle by means of which the working people of this beleaguered Island, the most detested downtrodden in all the British Empire, would challenge the hegemony of those at the top of society and  would articulate a vision of an egalitarian equal Ireland. 

But the fumblers in the greasy tills were determined to extinguish that and they ruthlessly employed every weapon at their disposal to do it even to the extent of starving thousands of innocent little children to the point of death, while at the same time paying homage to their God.

Despite it all, despite the absolute superiority they enjoyed from every possible perspective they failed.  They failed to smash the Union, and by your presence here tonight, as the democratically appointed representatives of almost 200,000 workers and their families, you are bearing witness to their failure.   

I want to thank you all and through you all the members of our Union who have stood together throughout the last five terrible years.  In particular I want to thank all those who have served as Shop Stewards, Workplace Representatives and Organisers in one role or another during this very difficult period.  I want to thank all who are employed in our Organisation who have worked hard throughout.  I also want to acknowledge all those down the years through whose efforts our Union has remained a force for Fairness at Work and Justice in our society.

The resistance in 1913 was indeed heroic, in every street, in every tenement in virtually every miserably overcrowded room.  Remarkably not only did union members defy the demand to sign William Martin Murphy’s pledge, that they would not organise in the ITGWU, but tens of thousands of others who were not members at all refused to sign – insisting on reserving their fundamental right to Freedom of Association.  It was a splendid demonstration of working class solidarity exemplifying all that is best in the human spirit.   

Over the intervening years it became fashionable to depict that heroic resistance, insofar as it was acknowledged at all, as some kind of opening salvo in a decade of rebellion which resulted in Nationalist Ireland finally evicting the British oppressor from this jurisdiction at least.  And yes, that great struggle did go on to inform and perhaps even shape the character of the 1916 Rebellion,  through the role of Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army, but it was about something far, far greater.

It was part of a wider egalitarian Movement which saw the mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of workers across the UK and the developed world in the years between 1910 and 1914.    

It was a period, for example, which saw the number of workers involved in strikes in Britain soar to 515,000 in 1910, 962,000 in 1911 and 1.5 million in 1912.    

This was not simply an intensification of industrial battles around pay and conditions of employment - although it certainly was that.  It was also informed by a grander aspiration, enlightened by the new Unionists of the 1880s, which extended to notions of a decent life, access to education, to healthcare, to proper housing and even a say in the architecture of the future.  It was characterised by the participation for the first time, although not exclusively, of unskilled workers such as Carters, Dockers, Servants and others.

Far from the classic simplistic Irish versus the British oppressor portrayal, the entire project in all its barbaric brutality was entirely conceived, planned and executed by Irishmen against their fellow citizens.  Indeed it was only thanks to the solidarity of British workers organised under the banner of the TUC who contributed the equivalent of £16m in today’s money, that the workers of Dublin managed to survive as long as they did. 

It was not a General Strike either as some insist on representing it.  It was a Lockout.  A savage, unbridled onslaught, on the poor of the City, by the Employers and the rich. 

Padraig Yeates in his excellent book “A City in Wartime” captured it perfectly thus: “The Great Lockout of 1913 had been far more than an industrial dispute: it had been a political contest, a public debate played out as street theatre – much of it bloody – about the tyre of society people wanted under home rule.  On one side had been the new Irish ruling class in waiting, Catholic, conservative and grasping; on the other had been a loose coalition of socialists, suffragists, trade unionists and radical nationalists who had varying visions of a more democratic, outward-looking and secular society”.

So there it is.  The onslaught was not really about an industrial dispute at all.   What William Martin Murphy and his contemporaries were really about was ensuring that what they referred to as “the rabble” would have no vehicle by means of which to articulate a say in the future of Home Rule Ireland. 

That’s why they deliberately and ruthlessly set out to crush the working people’s Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union.    Indeed they revealed their real agenda two years earlier in 1911 when Murphy and the Irish Parliamentary Party which held the balance of power in Westminster successfully secured the exclusion of Ireland from the Health and Unemployment benefit aspects of Lloyd George’s National Insurance Act.

The great battle which unfolded in the streets hereabouts exactly 100 years ago was a confrontation between irreconcilable visions of the future of the world.  It was fought out during an extraordinary moment in human history in the long shadow of the Great Depression of 1873 to 1896 and during the countdown to the First World War.

We too are living through one such extraordinary moment – one which will determine the shape of things for years and decades to come.  More than five years since the most dramatic and systemic collapse of the capitalist economic system since the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and despite some recent indications of nascent recovery, the future remains far from certain.

These days it is popular to represent that collapse in terms of the result of the actions of a handful of greedy bankers who grossly overstretched themselves aided and abetted by some corrupt or incompetent Politicians.  This is to limit the blame to the misdemeanours of a few, thus exonerating the system itself so that it can trundle on regardless. 

The roots of the crisis lay in the systemic outsourcing of ever increasing proportions of productive capacity in the USA and elsewhere in the Developed World in pursuit of lower labour costs.  This saw the collapse of the real purchasing power of the American Middle Class through the suppression of Trade Unions and the demise of Collective Bargaining which was camouflaged by what ultimately became the credit bubble.  It was followed by the development of financial alchemy through the Financial Services Industry which accounted for ever growing proportions of GDP in Western Economies without actually making anything.   All of it was underpinned by blind faith in the myth of the Market.   There are indeed people who should serve long terms in jail for what they did, but jailing them will not fix the fundamental contradictions of the free reign of unbridled free market capitalism.

The response dictated by those same players at the top of the Global Financial system has been exclusively designed in the image of their interests.  It has been especially so in Europe where the Authorities in Germany and the other creditor nations have engaged in a complex and deadly juggling act designed to ensure that their own pivotal Banks avoid crystallising the massive losses incurred as a result of reckless lending to the peripheral Countries (including our own) during the bubble years.  This would impose the dramatic burden of recapitalisation on their own domestic populations, with awesome political consequences for the elite, (if it didn’t torpedo the financial system altogether).   Consequently we in this Country and others were bullied (or conned) into socialising private debt and embracing servicing costs on a scale which will drain economic and social potential for decades to come.

Back in 2009 and 2010 one sided austerity was promoted relentlessly as the “there is no alternative” remedy, on the pretext that it was based on comprehensive and unchallengeable historical analysis.  Better still, it was asserted with equal vigour that the key to success was doing it through cutting spending as distinct from increasing the tax take from the better off.  In other words by robbing the poor, while insulating the rich as far as possible.

We now know differently.  One sided austerity is not a scientifically based conclusion at all.  It’s all codswallop!  Indeed no less an authority than the IMF challenged the whole edifice in a detailed study earlier this year which concluded that the negative multiplier effect of fiscal austerity on stressed economies had been grossly underestimated.  Actually it is simply a device for asserting the interests of creditors over debtors.  The juggernaut rolls on because it retains its only fundamental attribute – which is that it coincides exactly with the interests of the rich. 

These days all the establishment pundits and economic commentators are heralding the “end of the Recession” and the British Tory Press is absolutely gloating in praise of Osbourne’s brutal fiscal strategy.  They may be crowing a bit prematurely.  Yes, the 2nd quarter results do indicate 0.7% growth in the UK after a long period of austerity induced stagnation, as well as a slight reduction in unemployment.  The Eurozone also finally recorded a limp 0.3% growth after six consecutive quarters of decline.

We do not know how things will unfold, but what we do know is that the remorselessly driven one sided austerity strategy has threatened to capsize the Eurozone and that it has condemned millions of citizens to unemployment, forced emigration and misery, especially among the young, on a scale not seen in Europe since the 1950s. 

It is difficult to envisage how the stressed countries of the periphery can hope to regain the momentum to offer the hope and opportunity of sustainable jobs to their young people, while burdened by unsustainable levels of debt and in the absence of a major fiscal initiative at European level, to stimulate growth and recovery.  Unless there is a marked shift in policy in Berlin and in Brussels, the outlook for these countries and particularly for their young working class citizens, as well as the old and infirm who depend most on public services, must remain precarious.

It is as if the future of the peoples of Europe and indeed wider humanity stand suspended over the edge of a precipice, balanced precariously on the commitments of the ECB and unprecedented injections of quantitative easing by the US Fed, running at $85bn per month. 

The central strategy of the people at the top of the European Financial and Political Establishment is aimed at persuading those corporate interests who are warehousing trillions of euros, to invest again.  In this regard, the insistence on bargain basement sell offs of state industries and privatising public provision isn’t just about sovereign debt reduction, it’s also about providing safe avenues for corporate investment.  But the key ingredient of the internal devaluation strategy is, as always, what they call Labour Market Reform – in other words – driving down the price of labour by attacking collective bargaining structures and peoples’ rights at work.  Amidst all this the much vaunted notion of Social Europe has been sidelined.  Thus, we see even in Germany the development of an ever increasing underclass of working poor.

The Eurozone is an entity with a single currency governed by the most neo-liberally constructed Central Bank in the World, which has no responsibility for anything other than preserving the value of money.  Consequently there is little prospect of the erosion of debt relative to GDP through inflation, which means that the populations of several countries are burdened with life sapping reparations in perpetuity. 

The threat to the survival of the very fabric of post war democracy has not gone away.  Indeed the ugly spectre of forces which many had considered consigned to the dustbin  of history are re-emerging to stalk the landscape of Europe with their repulsive concoction of racial scapegoating and simplistic snakeoil solutions. 

Look at the Netherlands today where the anti-immigrant so called Freedom Party of Geert Wilders is commanding more support than any other in the latest opinion polls – or at the progress of the openly Fascist Golden Dawn Movement in Greece, now striving to ferment a civil war in that Country, registering as the third largest political force.    These forces are gaining momentum in several Countries, prospering in the hopelessness which is directly attributable to the brutal one sided austerity policy.

Here on this Island both jurisdictions are going through experiments in one sided austerity.  The one imposed by the Tory/Lib Dem Government in the UK and the other resulting from the ECB/EU/IMF Troika “Agreement”. 

The slashing of the block grant to Northern Ireland by £4bn over 4 years, as part of the UK Government’s plan to save £80bn is aggravating decline and destroying jobs.  Youth unemployment now stands at 25%.  The 80%:20% spending to tax ratio of their adjustment, which insulates the rich, translates into the so called Social Welfare reforms and privatisation of public services.  This means additional misery for the working poor and those most dependent on public provision.  The implications for the maintenance of inter communal harmony and consolidating the Peace Process seems to register well down the ranking in the order of priorities of the UK Government.  And we are scheduled to receive a detailed report on the situation there prior to the debate on Wednesday afternoon.

Since the collapse of 2008, budgetary consolidation in this Republic has amounted to €28bn or 18% of GDP – all to cut the fiscal deficit by a mere €6bn.    Meanwhile the domestic economy, which contributes a massive 74% to GDP has fallen by 24% and is still plummeting.  It is hard to imagine a more painful route towards such a meagre outcome. 

Even Professor Asoka Mody, the original architect of the IMF in the development of the Austerity Programme here, has recanted in the light of the overwhelming evidence of the damage it is doing.  Of course, his empirically based conclusions have been rubbished by the purveyors of the hair shirt now that he is gone off-script. 

All of which brings us to Budget 2014.  In this regard it is worth noting that we are now arriving at the point where state revenue will almost equal the cost of all our public services.  Government borrowing after 2014 will be entirely for the purpose of servicing debt.  Next year it will amount to €8.48bn or an estimated 4.9% of GDP, (about twice the Public Capital Programme of developed Countries) and more than one-fifth of total tax revenue. 

About 40% of the debt is attributable to the dreadful decision of 29th September 2008 to socialise the recklessly incurred debts of those at the top of our banking system.  This poses the question as to whether we should repudiate the debt and unilaterally default on it. 

We have considered calling for it but we do not think it would be wise to do so in a Country which is now so integrated into the Eurozone and which depends on FDI for 50% of its manufacturing employment and 96% of its total exports.  The time to avoid the banking debt burden was by refusing to ratify the guarantee on the morning of 30th September 2008 but unfortunately it was opposed by only one political party in the Oireachtas – The Labour Party – on that fateful day.  The problem with default is that it could become a one way ticket to the Stone Age!  We may yet have to do it but it would be better to wait for a restructuring of debt at European level.  It may take a while yet, but it will come when the chickens of the current policy come flocking home to roost on the order books of German manufacturers.

All that being said the Promissory Note Deal means that the Government does have some flexibility on the scale of the “adjustment” for the first time since it was elected.  .  We are totally opposed to doing one cent more than the absolute minimum required to achieve the 5.1% deficit target for 2014. The objective must be to find the best and most painless route to the 3% deficit by 2015  

The fact of the matter is that if we are to achieve it, our GDP must grow to more than €181bn by then from a projected €168bn this year – entailing cumulative normal growth of 5.3% over the period.  This cannot be done unless we stop suffocating domestic demand which accounts for three quarter of the economy and which remains in free-fall due to austerity policies. 

The Government must follow through by immediately leveraging the €6bn plus Strategic Investment Fund money and anymore that can be found, into the economy as rapidly as possible to provide social infrastructure and to enhance productivity and competitiveness for the future. We have been calling for this since Mayday 2011. This is the way to meet the target and it is also the way to generate tens of thousands of jobs and to alleviate the misery being endured in our society.  

Otherwise, as to the distribution of the adjustment itself, we call on the Fine Gael Party to lift their veto on a tax contribution from the rich so that the biggest element would be funded entirely by those who can most afford it.   The public tolerance for austerity has passed breaking point. 

The Nevin Institute has clearly laid out how an additional €1.65bn can be contributed by the better off over two budgets without either increasing the marginal rate of personal taxation or the standard rate of Corporation Tax.

If they insist on over egging the pudding to impress the financial markets, there is another way to stimulate domestic demand and that is by substantially increasing pay.   Yes, significant pay increases against the background of five years of restraint would actually help the economy considerably.  Indeed this was one of the inconvenient truths ignored by the Austerity junkies back in 2009 when they were citing our emergence from the 1980s recession as support for the absurd “expansionary fiscal contraction” rubbish that we don’t hear very much about nowadays.

The average industrial wage rose by 14% between ’86 and ’89 contributing significantly to the recover (along with a number of other factors) by boosting Government revenue and private consumption.  A rise in real earnings need not dramatically affect the Country’s export competitiveness.  Already, Ireland’s real effective exchange rates (deflated by consumer prices) has fallen by 17% relative to our trading partners since peaking in Spring 2008 (Source: Central Bank). 

Therefore if the adjustment exceeds the 5.1% target we will propose that the Private Sector Committee of Congress should spearhead a radical new drive for pay increases across the economy.

The response of the Trade Union Movement in today’s crisis is often compared negatively with the heroism of 1913.  It’s worth pointing out that although there were numerous sympathetic actions, what took place then was not a General Strike – it was the exact opposite – a General Lockout designed to exterminate the nascent Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. 

The Workers’ were given no alternative to negotiate an Agreement of any kind.   And there was one other crucially important ingredient – our people had nothing to lose – absolutely nothing to lose.

Today, thanks to them and to countless battles over the intervening years, most working people still have a very great deal to lose – even notwithstanding the amount of ground which has been conceded over the past few years.  And thus far at least we have had alternatives – even if they are bad alternatives. 

We still have the option of going all out in one great pitched battle.  We certainly could give a good account of ourselves if all the elements of our disparate Movement pulled together. But would it ultimately take our people to a better place?  Remember it’s not just our own employers and the Government, which incidentally is democratically elected, that we would be confronting - but the Troika as well. 

These are utterly ruthless people who have already demonstrated in Greece that they are quite prepared to let the democratic system collapse to achieve their objectives. No-one can say with certainty what the outcome would be – and we may still have to do it, because this crisis is far from over.  But there are no each way bets in class warfare – it’s winner takes all.  This was the bitter lesson learned by our comrades in Britain when some of them staked all in a once off pitched confrontation during the so called “winter of discontent” in 1978/79.   They ended up with eighteen uninterrupted years of Thatcherism for their trouble – which saw the reversal of a major proportion of the gains made by the Labour and Trade Union Movement there since the 2nd World War.

There is more than one way of fighting a war.  It’s like being accosted by a band of armed robbers on a remote Country road on a dark, wet, winter’s night, demanding your car on pain of your life.  You can mix it with them in the hope of overcoming them or give them the car and suffer the misery of carrying on - on foot.  You can get another car but you can’t get your life back.  No-one could reasonably accuse anyone of being unprincipled for making such a decision.

If it’s not possible to storm the ramparts of the other side without exposing the Men, Women and Children on our own side to unsustainable risk, we must opt for the next best option.  This entails adopting a rear-guard strategy – erecting such fortifications as we can and organising behind them to hold as much ground as possible.  Meanwhile we fight where we can win.  Indeed we, in this Union, have sanctioned industrial action in almost 40 instances over the last two years.  In this regard I want to make it absolutely clear that members who make democratic decisions by secret ballot vote to take action in defence of existing Agreements or to advance their interests will receive our absolute and fullest support.  Similarly we have been engaged in almost 30 separate ground campaigns on a whole range of social justice issues over the same period.

The essential fortifications we have been involved in building are:

  1. The Protocol with the Employers in the Private Sector.
  2. The Croke Park and Haddington Road Agreements in the Public Service
  3. And doing everything we could to head off a single Party monopoly Fine Gael Government (or worse, one dependent on a handful of Right Wing Independents)

In this latter regard some people say that this Government is the same as a Fine Gael Government or worse.  Well look at that Party’s Election Manifesto.  Look at their plan to effect the adjustment on a 73%:27% spending to taxation ratio by 2014 (not 2015).  That would have meant well in excess of €1.2bn in additional cuts thus far. 

And look their plan for the legal mechanisms that protected the pay and conditions of over 200,000 workers and which serve as the threshold of decency for the entire workforce.  Do we seriously think that such a Government would enact legislation to put them back in place after they had been stuck down by the High Court?  No, they would not – indeed they would have dismantled them in the first place.

And look at their New Era policy where they planned to sell off all our State Enterprises, our Airports, Ports and Harbours which are critical to the resurgence of our economy? 

In the public Transport Sector we are faced with a battle to head off of tendering out of 10% of bus routes.  But we would have a different problem with such a government – because the Fine Gael Manifesto said:  “ We will completely overhaul the bus market in Ireland by introducing competitive tendering for all bus routes in the Country as soon as practicably possible”

And does anybody seriously think that the Programme for Government would include a commitment to legislate for Collective Bargaining Rights – 1913 Centenary or not? 

People say these things would never happen – well they would and worse - because in the event of such an outcome the moderate wing of the Fine Gael Party would be side-lined.   

The political right across the World has long since learned how to concentrate misery on the poor, the people who work in the Public Service and the lower paid workers – a large minority, granted – but a minority nonetheless, thus preserving a permanent electoral majority for themselves.  

Look for example at how Cameron, Clegg and Osbourne are driving their austerity agenda on an 80%:20% ratio which is now moving to 85%:15%.

At the end of the day, Delegates, unpopular and all as it is to say it, it comes down to the distinction between making noise and making a difference!  The Labour Party is defending working people and civil society within this Government to the limits of their electoral mandate.  They are battling at the very gates of hell, outnumbered by more than two to one and against the background of the straightjacket of the Troika Agreement.  This is not apparent to people, but unless those of us who know it have the courage to say it there is a real danger that we will end up with a Government that will dismantle the core gains of a century of Trade Union work.

Does that mean that this is what we expected when we recommended a vote for Labour and transfers to the other parties on the Left?  No! But the electorate chose differently.  Does it mean that we regard the Government’s Budgets to date as fair – no we most certainly do not!  But neither do we  subscribe to the simplistic - “It’s all Labour’s fault” analysis - because it ignores the elephant in the room - the inconvenient truth that 60% of those who went out to vote in the last election voted for Fine Gael and Fianna Fail and the others who guaranteed the rich that they would be required to contribute little or nothing – and that based on the current opinion polls if there were an election in the morning those people would still command an absolute majority in the next Dáil.

We do not indulge in describing the Sinn Fein Party’s economic policies as “fantasy economics” either.  They are not fantasy economics.  They are increasingly largely consistent with the analysis of the Nevin Institute.  Neither do we challenge the integrity of the people further to the Left.  But we do respectfully argue that there is a poverty of ambition on the Left.  It’s not sufficient to vie for leadership of the Opposition. 

The Left has a responsibility to embrace the lessons of history and to build a unified, cohesive and credible alternative that faces the hard choices to challenge the outlook and value system that has been dominant in Ireland since 1922. - Otherwise it will never command the support of a majority of the electorate.

We want to work with everybody who is committed to the principles of social solidarity.  The great tragedy is that the decade of Rebellion which followed the 1913 Lockout did not bring about an Ireland informed by the Egalitarian ideals of those who led the Resistance. 

Instead public policy in both of the jurisdictions which emerged has always reflected the interests and the values of William Martin Murphy and his kind.  Individual greed has always been prioritised over the interests of the public good.

Even to the extent that the right to Collective Bargaining, the core issue at stake in the Lockout, which is respected in virtually every EU Country, is still denied in this Republic. 

It all led ultimately to the credit led property bubble here and the seminal decision of the night of 29th September 2008, which saw the Government of the day sign us all up for the colossal debts of our reckless bankers, condemning us to our third existential crisis in sixty years and generations to a legacy of reparations. 

Ireland’s debt to GDP ratio has increased by almost the entire size of the Irish economy in the six years since 2007, to 123% of GDP.  This is the third largest increase in public debt across advanced industrialised countries since 1900.

Unless we can secure a very good deal on retrospective recapitalisation of the Banks, the rate of interest on Ireland’s debt servicing bill will exceed the rate of economic growth.  We will have to generate primary surpluses each year.

That means the volume of tax revenues will have to exceed day to day public spending, either by additional increases in taxes or further cuts to spending.   Thus we are facing intense pressure on public services and a major on-going battle around sources of taxation for years to come. This cannot be sustained by a fragile recovering economy over the medium term.

The prospects for Europe too are more uncertain than they have been any time since World War II.  At the very least we are moving into a new and more brutal phase of capitalism. One thing is clear – the future will not be the same as the past. 

We do have one advantage over all the others – the best birth rate in Europe.  Yet we are sending our young people away to build economies across the world every day of the week. 

The value system of William Martin Murphy and his kind has failed spectacularly, in Ireland and in Europe.  It has delivered nothing only unemployment, emigration and misery.  As we emerge from the embers of our third major economic collapse in sixty years it’s time to revisit the other value system which was so brutally suppressed in 1913. 

Would not the egalitarian values of equality, community and solidarity provide a better more sustainable basis upon which to construct the future?  And would not today – World Day of Decent Work – be a good day to start? 

Perhaps a good place to begin would be by conducting an extensive, comprehensive and detailed study as to why it is that other small countries in Europe have succeeded while we have failed. 

Why is it that Countries such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden are able to maintain higher employment rates and consistently lower debt levels, despite vastly better public provision and social infrastructure underpinned by higher levels of public spending funded by taxation, than us?  And incidentally substantially higher proportions of their workforces are organised in Unions. What is in their value system that has enabled them to do it – and what is missing from ours? 

However unless the Trade Union Movement steps up to the mark – the architecture of the future -and a bleak increasingly barbaric future it will be – will be left exclusively to the ideological descendants of William Martin Murphy and his kind.  The Trade Union Movement, despite all its faults, is the only force in society that is exclusively owned by working people in whose interests it is to reassert the values of social solidarity in the public domain.  We cannot bring about a Socialist Utopia overnight but by combining our resources across the Movement we have the capacity:

  • To fund and equip the Nevin Institute to enable us to develop the concept of a new and socially sustainable all Island economic model respecting the dynamics of the Free Market but securely tethered to the interests of the public good and to advocate for it across every media every day
  • To build a Workers’ College to offer a comprehensive and enlightened education, to degree level, as an alternative to the increasing corporate colonisation of Academe
  • To create a fully staffed media vehicle to challenge the virtual hegemony of corporate influence in the dissemination of news, information and ideas
  • To establish a properly staffed Trade Union Centre in every County to provide information, advice and support to Workers and Communities battling to defend their interests and to serve as focal solidarity centres, administered by vibrantly democratic Trades Councils
  • To co-ordinate our industrial and consumer potential to exhort massive pressure on all those who deny workers respect and dignity.

No one Union can accomplish this alone but together we can build a powerful social force for Fairness at Work and Justice in our Society.  We should not lead working people into avoidable battles if we can build alternatives to protect them. And when we do lead them into confrontation we have an obligation to provide them with the capacity to win.  We have to focus on building a Movement again, instead of functioning on the basis of a multiplicity of industrial relations Institutions.   Tinkering around the edges won’t do.

We have to face up to the other inconvenient truth too.  We have to stop treating those employers who deny workers the fundamental right to Collective Bargaining better than those who respect it.  This means shifting a significant proportion of income to organising and combatting exploitation. 

It also means paying as much attention to the success of enterprises where Unions are recognised as we do to everyday negotiations and representations, to ensure that good pay, pensions and conditions of employment are sustained through productivity, innovation and skill.   

Similarly we have to recognise as well that the most important weapon in the battle to keep public services public is to ensure that they are actually superior, the most efficient and the best value for money and we have to reflect this in every aspect of our work. Otherwise the other side will inherit the future and dictate the agenda in the workplace by reference to the rules of the race to the bottom. 

Delegates – all the commemorations are important, but if we are really seriously true to the memory of the heroic Men and Women of 1913 – we must equip working people to win again.  This would be living up to the legacy of those who struggled and starved in the streets hereabouts to insist on the right to a decent life.  By working together across the Movement we can assert the values that sustained them through that heroic struggle, or we can choose instead to settle for relegation to the role of whingers on the side-lines of history while the ideological descendants of William Martin Murphy and his kind reinstate their model of society and get back to business as usual for another century.

Delegates, we stand at the crossroads of history, starkly challenged by the choice between making noise and making a difference.  This is our watch – it’s down to us – we must not fail our children and future generations.

 


Bookmark and Share

NEW MISC