Boost for Lisbon 'Yes' vote as ICTU gives its backing
THE government yesterday received a major boost to its Lisbon Treaty campaign when unions representing 600,000 workers voted in support of the forthcoming referendum.
But the executive council of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) was far from unanimous in reaching its pro-treaty stance, with 14 members voting in favour, five against and eight abstaining.
Despite the ICTU position to support a 'Yes' vote, two major unions, TEEU and Unite, will recommend its members to vote 'No'.
Sources said there was a strong feeling that ICTU, which represents 602,035 workers in the Republic, had "jumped the gun" by taking a vote yesterday. The country's largest unions, Siptu and Mandate, will not decide their positions until next week. The executive council debate was last night described as "vigorous" with unions taking the opportunity to outline their stances.
Speaking after the vote, ICTU general secretary David Begg expressed satisfaction that congress had adopted a clear position on "an issue of major public importance".
He said ICTU would be recommending a 'Yes' vote but this would not preclude individual, affiliated unions from advising their members on a different course of action.
In response, Unite said it was "disappointed" by the decision, while the TEEU pledged to continue its campaign against the treaty.
The union previously announced it would be advising its 45,000 members to vote 'No' because its believes recent European Court of Justice judgments have worsened the conditions of workers across the EU.
General Secretary Designate Eamon Devoy of ICTU said: "Some trade union leaders may talk optimistically about the social charter and what it might achieve.
"But recent key judgments by the European Court of Justice show the direction in which the EU is heading, and it is in favour of big business."
The ICTU decision was welcomed by the pro-treaty parties and campaign groups, with the Irish Alliance for Europe describing it as being in the "best interests of the ordinary men and women, not just in Ireland, but right across Europe."
Chairman of the Alliance Ruairi Quinn said the Charter of Fundamental Rights offers "unprecedented protection" to Irish workers and will play a key role in shaping the social conscience of our legislation.
This was disputed by the Campaign Against the EU Constitution, which called on union leaders to state how the charter, which would be made binding under the treaty, would protect workers.
The campaign group said its legal advice suggested the charter would not provide workers with more rights.