Public Sector Agreement - exposing the real transformation agenda

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WSM member and UNITE activist Dermot Sreenan gives his initial opinion on the (Draft) Public Sector Agreement. "We must reject this deal and when we vote for rejecting this deal – we are going back to what we voted for back in October, Strike. If the leadership cannot allow, contemplate or enable us to do that – then we replace them. Our Unions are still ours. It is time to clean house – it is time to get back to injury to one is the concern of all."

Jack O’Connor walked out of the government talks and refused to recommend the deal saying of S.I.P.T.U. that
“From its inception the union was distinguished from its predecessors and contemporaries in trade unionism in Ireland by its militancy in organisation and in industrial action, its extension of membership to all sections of general workers to support other wage earners in weaker strategic positions, its vigour in fighting employers, its recourse to the sympathetic strike on the principle that an injury to one is the concern of all and its proclaiming as tainted goods, unclean and untouchable material in establishments in which its members or fellow workers were on strike or locked out”

Off course this did not happen. The above quote is taken from Cathal O'Shannon’s book - Fifty Years of Liberty Hall.
What we will get from the Union leadership will be the same spin that we hear in relation to the saving of debt ridden banks, we have no choice.

It is worth considering how we got to this place.

The majority of us as Trade Unionists voted for Strike action in the run up to the budget of December which has now left many of us living on 2002 wages in 2010. The leadership took this vote for action and turned it into protracted negotiations with government on a ten point plan – where they claimed the government could make the requisite savings without lowering our wages.

The Government saw these ideas, kept them for a future date, walked away from the talks, implemented their cuts in wages, and then invited the Union leaders back into the room for a look at the ten points laid out by David Begg (ICTU) and the other generals of our movement. This then became known as the ‘Transitional’ agenda.

Tortuous Tuesday – the 31st of March will go down in Irish History not only for lunacy of saving banks who provided the reckless loans to developers which has effectively bankrupted this state, but also for the announcement of the successful conclusion of these talks on the ‘Transitional Agenda.’ Truth is not as important as spin, and we will now have the sickening procession of Union leaders telling us to vote for this deal as it is the ‘only option.’

Many Trade Union members are currently engaged in a work to rule – to get back the wages that we lost in the last budget. Now we will be asked to stop that – and to vote for this.

Like all deals, we should not reject it out of hand. Let us see what our leaders have won for us. Listed below as plusses and minus are the main points that I’ve picked out from the deal.
• + They will not cut our wages again - possibly till 2014 – but the Government has previous in terms of walking away from deals when it suits them and at the same time we live in an era of constant stealth taxes.
• + The promise that if we are on target with the many savings which we will bring about via ‘rationalisation’ and ‘re-structuring’ and if this is passed by the Review body in Spring 2011 – that the Government will see what they can do in relation to the low waged workers, under €35,000PA. I am not holding my breath.
• + No Compulsory staff redundancies

That concludes the positives.

• - New Pension agreed to start by 2011 which moves people off defined Benefit and towards a defined contribution plan.
• -Longer core working hours for many staff – from 8am to 8pm.
• -Reduction in staff numbers
• -No replacement of staff until they get it down to the staff levels that they have in mind.
• -Complete co-operation with the plans in terms of ‘Rationalisation’ and ‘Restructuring.’
• -No strikes – an extended period of social harmony is expected when this deal is agreed to and especially no strikes in terms of pay, or working conditions.
• -Independent Review body set up consisting of some members of ICTU which will oversee this transformation and agree that sufficient progress is being made.
• - Maximise productivity – whatever that means in the context of education, health, and transportation to name but a few.
• -NO plans to re-instate wages to pre-cut levels.

When you weight it up – it cannot be seen as much of deal. We’ll be told it is the only game in town by our leaders. It might be for them because it gets them back into their comfort zone of being in government offices selling out our gains, our working conditions, lowering our pay, and devaluing our pensions, and in the meantime creating new positions for themselves (Review Body) which will no doubt pay handsomely (plus expenses). Wage cuts always effect those on the bottom the hardest, and yet there is nothing in this deal which attempts to even throw a lifeline to our lower paid brothers and sisters.

We must reject this deal. But by rejecting it – we are also rejecting our Union leadership. This is all they can do and all they can deliver for us. It is the only deal that we will ever get through them because this is all the know how to do.

We must reject this deal and when we vote for rejecting this deal – we are going back to what we voted for back in October, Strike. If the leadership cannot allow, contemplate or enable us to do that – then we replace them. Our Unions are still ours. It is time to clean house – it is time to get back to injury to one is the concern of all.

That means people in the passport office, nurses in the hospitals, firemen in their stations, and injury to any of these is an injury to all of us.


Read the full text of the Draft Public Service Agreement

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