June 2013        

The man with the power to cut your wages

Despite sterling efforts by this bankrupt Government and its tame media to present some “green shoots of recovery” and claim that the “heavy lifting” is behind us, this is obviously nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
     The unemployment figures point to the continuing deep effect of the crisis on working people. Youth unemployment now stands at almost 27 per cent; those classified as long-term unemployed now constitute 62 per cent of the total unemployed.
     Coupled with the continuing high level of unemployment, another growing feature is those experiencing underemployment, with some 155,000 people now experiencing involuntary part-time work. This is particularly hard on women workers, with more than a third of those working part-time now underemployed.
     Emigration continues to be the only option for tens of thousands of our people, in particular for young people, and provides a safety valve for the system itself, as it has done in the past.
     The strategy continues to be to hope that the global economy will somehow pick up, and so we can export our way out of this crisis while simultaneously paying the enormous socialised corporate debt.
     Participation by the Labour Party in government has proved to be a disaster for workers, with that party leading the charge with its bullying of public-sector workers. Brendan Howlin has put on the statute book the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, to give him the power to cut workers’ wages, terms and conditions, and increment payments.
     This is nothing less than a full-scale assault on public-sector workers by their employer, the state; but it will have repercussions far beyond public-sector workers. Workers know from experience that laws are merely congealed politics, and that these measures will be followed up with demands by private employers to extend and expand the scope of this law in all branches of the economy.
     There is growing evidence that, right across the board, employers are engaging in systematic attacks on the terms and conditions of workers, whether in relation to maternity leave or to registered employment agreements.
     This Government will not change their course, as it is not in their or the EU’s interests to do so. Elements of the trade union leadership are now hopelessly compromised by their relationship with the Labour Party and their efforts to undermine the democratic vote by their own members regarding Croke Park 2.
     The celebration to mark the 1913 Lock-out by national trade union leaders rings very hollow in the light of recent events. These elements are still ideologically locked in to “social partnership,” despite being the only partners on the dance floor: everyone else—Government and bosses—has left that particular stage to them.
     It is time for a new departure, time to renew the struggle for a different Ireland, time to end this chaotic and unsustainable economic system. Irish workers can no longer afford capitalism.

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