October 2011        

The Challenge for Trade Unionism

Successful launch of CPI pamphlet

On 8 September the CPI launched its latest pamphlet, The Challenge for Trade Unionism, to promote and encourage debate throughout the trade union movement on the future direction and role of the unions.
     The launch took the form of a seminar at which Éamon Devoy, general secretary of the TEEU, gave a talk that included a critical assessment of the pamphlet’s contents and the thrust contained within it while at the same time articulating his own views of where the trade union movement needs to be going in the future.
     Colin Whitston, senior lecturer in industrial relations, National College of Ireland, gave a very comprehensive review of the present state of the labour movement and the effect that decades of “social partnership” has had on the trade union movement and outlined possible areas where the movement might re-engage and rebuild in present conditions.
     Jimmy Nolan spoke on behalf of the CPI, outlining the reasons why the party had set about researching and presenting the ideas and political analysis it was putting forward.
     The pamphlet itself draws a picture of the damage done by decades of social partnership, the political complicity in Government policies by elements of the ICTU leadership over the decades, to the extent that it is almost impossible to distinguish any independent policy or campaigning role on the part of the trade union movement separate from that of the state.
     But the pamphlet deals with much more than just social partnership. It emphasises the need for the development of distinct economic and social policies for the trade union movement, the need to actively develop policies for re-engaging with its members and becoming a focal point for the majority of unorganised workers and the wider community. It needs also to develop its own political education programmes for educating its members, to arm them with the ideas needed for struggling more effectively and to show that there is an alternative to monopoly capitalism.
     One of the decisions arising from the seminar was the agreement by all those attending on the importance of left co-operation. It was agreed to establish a trade union forum that would bring the left together, using the resolution adopted at the recent biennial delegate congress of the ICTU in relation to actively campaigning against the privatisation of public companies and public services.

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