August 2011        

The economy continues to slide


The unemployment figure for July makes grim reading, not to mention the hell that many of the 470,330 people concerned experience every day, scraping by on social welfare. The figure is 14.3 per cent—the highest in six months.
     The number of long-term unemployed continues to grow, increasing by more than 45,000 since July of last year. 40 per cent of all claimants have been on the live register for a year or more, compared with 31 per cent in July last year. Under-25s make up 17 per cent of all those signing on for more than a year. On a seasonably adjusted basis, an additional 1,300 women and 300 men joined the live register last month alone.
     The number of redundancies notified to the Department of Social Protection jumped by 28 per cent between June and July, rising to 4,723 last month. A total of 29,555 redundancies were notified to the department in the first seven months of this year, down 24 per cent on the 38,776 recorded in the first seven months of 2010.
     Meanwhile the number of bankruptcies continues to grow. According to insolvencyjournal.ie there was an increase of 6 per cent in the number of business failures in the seven months to July compared with the same period last year.
     In a walk around any city, town or village you can see shops, coffee shops, restaurants and bookshops with “For sale” signs hanging out.
     The Government has no job strategy except rebranding FÁS and forcing more people onto schemes and endless training courses while harassing the unemployed to account for themselves, forcing them to turn up for endless reviews, and if they don’t turn up, or turn up late, their allowance will be cut. They are still hoping that emigration will take the pressure off them and solve the jobs crisis.
     The only priority for this Government, and the strategy being imposed by the EU, ECB and IMF on our people, is ensuring that we will pay back all the corporate debt undertaken by the state at the behest of international finance houses. We will pay more than €10 billion this year alone in servicing this unpayable debt.
     Slashing and burning public spending and services, as well as selling off state assets, imposing water charges and a household tax of €200, regardless of its size, is their only strategy.
     The recent biennial delegate conference of the ICTU adopted a resolution (see July Socialist Voice) calling for an active campaign of opposition to privatisation and cuts. This is most urgently required.
     Some seemingly want to wait and allow “Labour” in government to represent the interests of working people and the trade union movement, or do a trade-off on this or that piece of Government policy. This must simply not be allowed to happen. What is needed is a national co-ordinating committee, which should be established at the highest level, to include trade unions, community groups, pensioners’ groups—all those affected by these cuts and the debt burden—to begin to mobilise and fight back in a co-ordinated way.
     Now is the time to do it, not after the Government has begun the sale.
[EMC]

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