Teachers, the crisis and the wolves going after Greece


Brian Mooney used his regular column in the 'Education Today' section of the 'Irish Times  to tell teachers why should vote yes to the public sector agreement.  This is a response to his argument by teacher and WSM member Gregor Kerr submitted as a letter to the irish Times.

Like Brian Mooney (‘Education Today’ 11th May), I am one of the 50,000 teachers currently considering the ‘Public Service Agreement 2010-2014’, commonly known as the Croke Park deal. Also like Mr. Mooney I am only too well aware of the backdrop of economic chaos in Greece, Ireland and elsewhere across Europe against which we have to make up our minds.

Mr. Mooney correctly identifies the anger and rage which many people feel against a government which has not only allowed the economy to be run in the interests of a tiny elite of bankers and developers but now wants to put all the burden of attempting to address the financial crisis on the shoulders of ordinary workers.

He calls on us to ‘rise above the rage’ and ‘acknowledge the reality of where Ireland finds itself today’ and vote for the agreement. His logic for doing so is that ‘any signal to the [international bond] market that we do not have the will to take the pain that recovery demands will lead us to suffer the same fate as our Greek cousins’.

I could not disagree more fundamentally with this conclusion. What is happening in Greece should be all the more reason for us to reject the Croke Park deal. The international markets (i.e. financial speculators) have gone after the Greek economy because they believe they can make a short-term financial killing on it. ‘The markets’ are demanding a slashing of public spending and a dismantling of workers’ rights and conditions. And because economic orthodoxy across Europe has accepted that ‘the markets’ cannot be challenged, these profiteers (described as a ‘wolf pack’ by the Swedish finance minister) are being appeased by government policies in every EU country.

Thus the Irish government, rather than going after the assets of the wealthy or attempting to deal with the crisis by a re-balancing of the taxation system, has joined the bandwagon of slash and burn with regard to public services and workers’ conditions. The Croke Park deal is another wheel on this bandwagon. Neither is it likely to appease the wolf pack. Rather when they see we are willing to continue to accept the pain they will keep coming back for more. And when wages and conditions are decimated in the public service they’ll come after private sector workers with an even greater vengeance than heretofore. We’ve already seen attempts to attack the minimum wage and Joint Labour Committee rates in the catering and other sectors. So having considered the matter very carefully, I would urge all my teaching colleagues in the INTO, TUI, ASTI and all other public sector workers to reject the Croke Park deal and to reject the economic policy that puts the interests of a tiny wealthy minority before the interests of the vast majority of society.

Yours sincerely
Gregor Kerr