Date Released: 24 February 2013
Members are justifiably concerned about the on-going Croke Park Agreement process. Indeed, some are doubtful that we should be involved in the talks at all. There is a view that bellicose statements and refusal to participate would yield better results.
The fact is that we are facing a Government with an overwhelming parliamentary majority which is itself confronted with the most serious economic crisis in our history. Indeed, the crisis is of such a scale that it actually continues to threaten the very solvency of the State. It will take a great deal more than the expenditure of hot air and windy rhetoric in basketball arenas to achieve a successful outcome in this battle. Equally, the hawks on the Government side should wake up to the reality that if they push us into a war it will not be conducted over the airwaves or in sports arenas.
There is actually a way in which the burden on those who work in the public services and the people who depend on their work could be alleviated. This would involve a substantially greater contribution from the rich in the form of taxation. Unfortunately, sixty per cent of those who voted in the last election supported the parties that are opposed to a wealth tax or a higher tax rate on high earners. Indeed, based on the latest opinion polls these same parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, would still command an absolute majority of the votes.
Therefore, it is wise for all sides to explore the possibility of a negotiated settlement. Accordingly, our team at the talks are working day and night striving to achieve an outcome that would be better for all the workers employed in the public service than a legislated pay cut or what we could reasonably expect from a protracted industrial battle.
However, failing a reasonable outcome we will actually go to war. We are prepared for it. It will involve protracted strikes and all that goes with them. While we may not win, the Government will not win either.