Socialist Party MEP, Joe Higgins & senior trade union activists call For strike action

Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP and senior trade union activists have called for all-out resistance to the plan by the Fianna Fáil/Green Party government to savage the wages of public service workers. Call for Major Lunchtime Protest at Dáil 1.00PM This Wednesday (Budget Day). Councillor Terry Kelleher, a member of the CPSU Executive Committee said: “Low paid CPSU members (who on average earn only €575 a week, €29,900 per annum) can’t afford another pay cut. What’s on the cards is up to a 15% pay cut in one year. Our members are struggling and some of them are already forced to claim Family Income Supplement because their wages are so low. Another pay cut plus cuts in child benefit will drive many public sector workers into poverty.

“The worst aspect of last week’s talks wasn’t the decision of the government to walk away from so called partnership; it was the incredible spectacle of the union leaders humiliating themselves in attempting to help the government cut our pay.

“The union leaders have been given a huge mandate by the members to take strike action to defend pay, pensions and working conditions. They should act on this mandate immediately. A 48-hour public sector strike should be called as a first step in a determined campaign to defeat the government”.

“ The same people who caused the crisis now claim that the recession will be ended by cutting pay and social welfare and slashing funding for essential public services. By taking €4 billion out of the economy next year and every year until 2013 the government will put tens of thousands of more out of work and destroy the health and education systems.

“If 315,000 public sector workers have substantially less pay next year then it is simple – consumer spending will fall and unemployment will rise and the recession will deepen.

“When Fianna Fáil and the Greens talk of public sector reform they really mean thousands of job losses, longer hospital waiting lists, more people on trolleys, bigger class sizes, and the outsourcing and privatisation of public services to profiteers in the private sector”.

Ray McLoughlin, a member of the engineering and electricians’ union (TEEU) Executive Committee said: “The media hysteria against public sector workers is preparing the ground for cuts in the pay of private sector workers. What we need is unity between private and public sector workers against the government’s budget attacks and the employers cutting jobs and pay.

“Earlier this year 10,000 electricians went on all out strike and stopped the big construction employers from imposing a 10% pay cut. The public and private sector unions should follow this example.

“A determined campaign of strike action is what we need. ICTU leaders called off the ‘national strike’ on 30 March and then they called off the public sector strike on 3 December. But where has this “conciliatory” approach got us? Facing massive pay cuts!

“We need action. United action by all workers private and public together on strike could defeat the budget cuts and begin a real defense of pay and jobs in the private sector”.

Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP said: “The decision by the government to cut the pay of public sector workers for a second time in eight months must be met with an all out campaign of opposition by the trade unions.

“The events of the last week show clearly that the government and the employers are engaged in an offensive to drive down the wages and working conditions of every worker in this country.

“Why have IBEC and ISME been so enthusiastically calling for public sector workers pay and pensions to be slashed? Simple, because when Brian Lenihan stands up in the Dáil on Wednesday and announces the pay cuts this will then give the employers their justification for widespread pay cuts across the private sector.

“The fraud that was ‘Social Partnership’ is dead. The only way that the trade union movement can respond to these attacks is to launch an all out campaign to defend the pay, conditions and public services of all workers – public and private.

“All of the talking has achieved nothing, I am joining my colleagues here today in calling on the trade unions to call a 48 hour public sector strike as a first step in a campaign to defeat the government.

“The €4 billion cuts due on Wednesday are only the beginning. The true figure is an astronomical €16 billion. In order to try and rescue their crisis ridden capitalist system, the government and big business are intent on impoverishing the working class and destroying public services. They must be stopped and the trade unions have the power to bring this government down, to drive them out of office.

“Workers should reject the divide and rule of the government and the employers. This Budget is going to hurt all workers and as an initial act of opposition we are calling for a major lunchtime protest outside the Dáil at 1.00pm on Wednesday.”

Fine Gael and Labour Join the Fianna Fáil Mice That Roared in Supporting Cuts

“The mice that roared last week against proposals for unpaid leave – the Fianna Fail backbenchers – were the groveling dogs that didn’t bark for the ten years that the speculators, developers and big bankers were robbing blind a generation of young workers in the housing market. They weren’t, as claimed, responding to ordinary constituents but to reactionary business elements who want a precedent of wage cuts started in the public sector in order to do the same themselves. The big business owned media and, disgracefully, RTE facilitated this phony ‘revolt’. This is what the 15 month campaign of vilification of public sector workers was designed for.

The entire political establishment, including Fine Gael and The Labour Party are now united in demanding cuts in public sector workers’ pay. That is why workers can only now rely on their own power”

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