Government legislation an attempt to bully trade unionists into voting for paycuts


The ‘Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013’, published by the government on Thursday last (23rd May) is a clear attempt to bully public sector workers into voting for the re-hashed terms of the Croke Park II deal emphatically rejected by them just a couple of weeks ago.

Croke Park II, re-packaged and re-named as the ‘Haddington Road Deal’, contains nothing more than minor tweaks to the original deal. Yet the leaderships of most unions are falling over themselves in their eagerness to sell it to members.  The votes in SIPTU and the INTO were seen as crucial to the defeat of the original deal.  The leaderships of these two unions are the most eager in their ‘recommendation’ to members to accept the tweaked deal.  Some other public sector unions, most notably ASTI and TUI have indeed decided that the ‘Haddington Road Deal’ contains so little difference from the rejected deal that it is not even worth putting to ballot.

Because there is so little ‘improvement’ on offer in the deal currently being put to ballot, however, the union leaders have very little to sell it with.  Hence the government legislation is being held over people’s heads as the ‘alternative’ - If you don’t roll over and meekly accept these paycuts, we’ll legislate for even worse ones.

Playground Bully

This is the act of the playground bully – we want our way and if you don’t agree to our way, we’ll make you suffer!  But, just as the playground bully quite often doesn’t really want to have to follow up on his/her threats of physical violence and hopes that the victim will slink away in the face of the threats, government TDs hope that public sector workers will vote for the paycuts included in the ‘Haddington Rd deal’ so that they don’t have to implement the legislation.

It is quite possible that they will vote the legislation through the Dáil while the union ballots are taking place in the coming weeks as part of their bullying.  But it’s one thing to pass the legislation and another to implement it knowing full well that to do so will trigger massive industrial unrest.

Public sector workers – by their rejection of the Croke Park II proposals and by their massive votes (those that were given an opportunity to do so) for industrial action – have shown that they do not accept the government contention that ordinary workers have to suffer yet again as a result of a financial crisis not of our making.  It is to the shame of the union leaderships that they have connived with the government to attempt to cajole people to accept these cuts.

But the power remains in our hands.  Let’s not be bullied.  Let’s vote against the revised terms of Croke Park II and let’s get ready to use our industrial muscle to defeat government attempts to legislate for paycuts.

Words: Gregor Kerr (chair District 14 INTO - personal capacity)