With the announcement today by the TEEU and Unite that they are urging a No vote in the forthcoming Fiscal Compact Referendum allied to the fact that Mandate announced a similar position yesterday a clear division is emerging between the leading trade unions. SIPTU has basically offer its support for the treaty in return for a funded job creation plan, this is basically the union leadership buying time before it falls in line with Labour and calls for a yes vote.
"It is becoming increasingly obvious that austerity is not working”, TEEU general secretary Eamon Devoy. “To hold a referendum when France may well change its stance makes no sense whatsoever. If the Irish Government cannot adequately defend its citizens they must defend themselves." he said.
ICTU meets in the next few days to decide it's position. It seems likely that with David Begg urging a reluctant yes vote and SIPTU inclining this way that ICTU may well back a yes vote, nonetheless it is significant that three big unions have come out for a no vote. The unions see their membership declining and are fearful for their future. The grassroots household tax campaign has also shown that a substantial portion of the population are willing to fight rather than be crushed under the heel of austerity. Sensing this mood change the leadership are having to look to the future, cosying up to Labour is increasingly a loveless relationship with little future.
The trade union movement needs to grow, it needs to bring in the huge section of workers who are unorganised to insure it's future. However the unions have a severe credibility problem with many workers. Restoring that credibility will not be achieved by opposition to austerity in word only. Firm backing for the campaigns emerging against austerity, active participation in the same and a democratisation of the unions themselves is the only way the movement can recover it's size and power. The Independent Workers Union has gone down that road with many members heavily involved in the CAHWT and making the links between organising as communities and organising in workplaces. That sort of initiative is one of the ways we will see the growth of the unions again.