Twenty four hours ago (on February 24th 2009), we suggested
that the way ahead for the Irish public sector trade unions was to build
towards a 24 hour public sector general strike.
We didn’t pick that idea from the
sky. It seemed inherent in the situation, following on that it is, from
Saturday’s monster march. Now the Irish Confederation of Trade Unions has
called for a national strike day on the 30th March because the
employers in both the public and private sectors are reneging on the national
ICTU explained to the press that they have been trying to negotiate with
the government around their 10 point plan as a way of providing some economic
stability over the next three years. Absolutely correctly they argued that they
can’t accept wage cuts when profits are untouched. As we’ve argued the workers
shouldn’t be made to pay for the bosses’ crisis.
September’s national pay agreement ‘Towards 2016’, has now been more or
less torn up by the government. IBEC (the employers’ group) and the Construction
Industry Federation have all resigned from the deal. The next three weeks will
see ICTU’s affiliated unions ballot their members. Meanwhile Taoiseach Brian Cowen
has told the Dáil that the government is happy to talk but
it won’t change its mind on the decisions it’s already taken. That sounds like
a monologue. Its also reflects the fact that the bosses have very little room
to manoeuvre. They couldn’t make the bosses pay for the crisis after all, could
The Irish trade union leaders are clearly under enormous pressure and
have no doubt also been emboldened by the mood of the workers and the show of
force on Saturday. The call for action on the 30th is absolutely
correct, but it also requires them to take the lead. It is however quite a
dangerous game if they aren’t serious about it – if for example it is perceived
as merely a bargaining point or a threat they would rather not be asked to
A national one day strike of this proportion could essentially be a
general strike. The call has to be taken into every union branch and into every
factory, shop and office. The boss’s attacks have to be stopped dead in their
tracks. But there is a risk as well. It would be a fatal error to assume that
this action is a done deal; that automatically the ballots will roll in. Every
vote has to be fought for and every ballot won. The national day of strikes
should be forged into one united 24 hour general strike against the crisis and
against the bosses’ attempt to make the working class pay for it.
IBEC have been trying to wheedle their way out of the
National Wage Agreement and have asked that it’s suspended for a year, but the
private sector unions have responded by pointing that there is plenty of scope
in the deal to assist employers in genuine difficulty and that no one should be
allowed to back out. All workers need to be brought into the struggle. The
employers will no doubt try and divide the unions and the different sections of
the class, the big and the small firms, the private from the public sectors.
This Thursday’s Civil Service strike will be an important
measure of the mood as will a whole other series of forthcoming industrial
action ballots in the public sector. In the private sector 12,000 engineers
have been balloted with the prospect of a further 40,000 being brought into the
action if the dispute isn’t resolved this week. Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann are
meeting unions on the 25th, to discuss Saturday’s forthcoming
strikes over cuts and job losses. The movement is bubbling up everywhere, the
bosses and the government are on the ropes. The role of the leadership of the
movement will be decisive. Many workers will be beginning to question the
system that’s brought them to this point. Ireland was recently voted one of
the best places in the world to live. Now it’s in freefall.
It’s a measure of the crisis that today, 25th February, 2,000 Gardai (police) will be gathering at Parnell Square and marching to the Dail to protest against the pension levy.
The 30th of March is a crucial date for the
Irish working class, Ireland
needs a socialist solution. The ideas of James Connolly as well as Karl Marx
and Lenin have never been more relevant.