February 2013        

The ICTU’s “better, fairer debt” strategy

We have long advocated a strategy for the organised trade union movement whereby it would not only take the lead in the struggle against austerity but take a central role in opposition to the socialised corporate debt.
      The signs coming from the ICTU are not good. The demonstration planned for the 9th, while very important, can only be the first step towards a much more focused and sustained strategy. They have not presented any clear demands, given no direction to members about what they should be demanding. They have reduced organising workers to an expensive PR campaign costing €340,000 of members’ money for half a dozen one-off demos.
      The fact that no leading trade union officer was to speak on the platform at the Dublin demonstration shows a clear abdication of responsibility. The reason given is that they wanted one clear message for the media on the day, and they didn’t want to be booed, as they have been at previous demonstrations, particularly in the pre-budget demonstration organised last December by the Dublin Council of Trade Union.
      Very few of our esteemed leaders cut their teeth in the rough-and-tumble of general meetings of members, of branch and section committees, never mind strike committees. There they would have experienced the sharpness of debate and arguments that would have made the few boos from a few hecklers seem pretty tame.
      No, the real reason is that they didn’t want any critical voices from the platform. They did not impose censorship: rather they cover their complete capitulation under the guise of not confusing the message or having their message lost because of a few boos. And one suspects the fundamental reason is that they didn’t want any critical words directed at the Labour Party in government: no demands for non-payment or calls for repudiation of the debt to be articulated.
      The demonstrations have been called to back up the Government’s negotiating on the promissory notes, not opposition to the socialised corporate debt imposed on the people by the EU and the Irish establishment. The Government’s position is to pay the debt, only extending the repayments over a longer period.
      The ICTU in effect has reduced its demands to a “better, fairer debt.” They are still following the logic of “social partnership.” If we back you up in regard to the debt, you give us something in Croke Park II. We will deliver and manage our members’ expectations.
      The ICTU has no policy on the debt other than the one the Government gives it. Its overpaid advisers have nothing to offer, neither have those employed as “economists” within the trade union movement anything to say that is not a “better, fairer debt” strategy. They are co-ordinating their efforts with the Government to ensure the passing of Croke Park II.
      If there is to be another Croke Park deal it will lead to the destruction of trade union organisations in the public sector, just as “social partnership” destroyed trade union organisation in the private sector.

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