Date Released: 11 February 2014
SIPTU is engaged in a major push to win pay increases across the private sector in order to improve living standards and to stimulate domestic demand in the economy.
Addressing the annual commemoration to mark the death of workers leader, Jim Larkin, on Sunday (2nd February) SIPTU General President, Jack O’Connor, said that workers and their families have shouldered the burden of the crisis while the rich have escaped from anything remotely approaching their capacity to pay their share.
He was speaking just days before the opening of the criminal trial of the former chairman and two former executives of Anglo Irish Bank when the scale of reckless lending and blind eye regulation that contributed to the banking and economic collapse six years ago was recalled.
Former chairman Sean FitzPatrick and former executives Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer are charged with providing financial assistance to 16 people in the middle of 2008 by advancing them loans to buy shares in the bank.
The prosecution has alleged that the loans were made in order to unwind the massive 25% holding which businessman, Sean Quinn, had accumulated in the bank in the months before its share price collapsed.
To facilitate the deal the bank lent ten customers, known as the Maple Ten, an extraordinary €45 million each to buy shares in the bank while six members of the Quinn family also received loans totalling a further €175 million for the same purpose.
The crisis for the bank followed what was described in court as an “extraordinary form of gambling” called contracts for difference (CFD) used by Sean Quinn to increase his holding in the now defunct bank.
The collapse of Anglo and the disastrous banking guarantee introduced by the former Fianna Fáil led government in September 2008, led to the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs, a sharp reduction of wages and five years of budget cuts to public services.
Speaking at the Larkin commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery, Jack O’Connor said that the best way to stimulate domestic demand which accounts for three quarters of the economy is by growing consumption.
“That is why we are engaged in a major push to win pay increases across the private sector. We know that there is space to do it without endangering job creation, because unit labour costs have fallen significantly vis-a-vis our major trading partners due to wage stagnation and increased productivity over the past five years.
“The best way to stimulate domestic demand which accounts for three quarters of the economy is by growing consumption. And the best way to do this is by increasing pay and purchasing power and we are precisely focused on assisting workers to organise themselves to this end.
“In this regard, we utterly reject calls by some among the business and employer organisations for further cuts in public spending to fund tax reductions for those on higher incomes. Having escaped contributing anything remotely approaching their capacity to do so during the dark years of one-sided austerity they now want to get back to business as usual. All they know is that they want more – much, much more – and they don’t give a damn who suffers the consequences.
“The strategy of increasing pay must be accompanied by rapid deployment of the Strategic Investment Fund to generate thousands of jobs. The other ingredient is the restoration of credit lines and this can be best achieved through the creation of a new state investment bank,”