Thursday 23 March 2017

Communities will suffer unless we face down unions

Siptu boss Jack O’Connor insists that fresh public sector pay talks must be
announced before Thursday. Photo: Tony Gavin
Siptu boss Jack O’Connor insists that fresh public sector pay talks must be announced before Thursday. Photo: Tony Gavin
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

On a beautiful summer's day in July 2015, Dublin's Liberty Hall was a hive of activity.

An election was taking place - one that would have grave implications for not only the government of the day, but also tens of thousands of hard-working public sector workers.

Just after 3pm, the result was announced. The Lansdowne Road Agreement was approved by 78.5pc of Siptu workers. The electorate had spoken and given an overwhelming endorsement to a deal they were told would run until September 2018.

Of course, the pay increases themselves would be modest. The latest rise is an extra €1,000 for every public servant from next September.

Meanwhile, in the same iconic building last Thursday, the very workers who backed the pay deal were told in no uncertain terms that everything has changed.

They were warned in light of the Labour Court deal secured by the gardaí, Siptu needed to change its strategy.

Shortly before 12.30pm, an ultimatum was issued to the Government by the union's president Jack O'Connor: Grant us new pay talks or we will cause industrial unrest.

Of course, Mr O'Connor's solution to faster pay restoration is one that raises more questions than a game of University Challenge.

He says hundreds of millions of euro can be found by clamping down on vulture funds and tax evasion.

Mr O'Connor credits Independent TD Stephen Donnelly for this proposal - a man he admits he hasn't even met let alone spoken to about the idea.

Another possible means of shoring up cash for his own members is increasing the 9pc VAT rate for the hospitality sector. Mr O'Connor doesn't mention what sort of impact this would have on jobs in the tourism industry. One wonders if he even cares.

And so, as a result of Siptu's new-found opposition to a deal its members had overwhelmingly subscribed to, the Government once again finds itself held to ransom by the trade union movement.

Of course, Paschal Donohoe and his colleagues do have options. They can slow down investment in public services, kick to touch plans aimed at tackling the housing crisis, and allow our children to be taught in prefabs for a few more years at least.

Or they could scale back operations tasked with ending the terror brought down on our communities by ruthless thugs such as the Kinihan cartel.

The other option is to stand firm and to deliver a wake-up call to the union movement: stop putting your own interests before the country. Taking one of the former options would prove unforgivable.

Irish Independent

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