Wednesday 18 October 2017

Political parties calling for tax cuts is a 'con job', says Siptu leader

Siptu president Jack O’Connor
Siptu president Jack O’Connor

Anne-Marie Walsh

The main political parties' calls for tax cuts are a "con job", the leader of the country's largest union has claimed.

Delivering his final presidential speech to his union's conference in Cork, General President Jack O'Connor launched a scathing attack on Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and said money that should be pumped into public services is instead making profits for "legalised bandits".

He said the issue is more fundamental than this year's budget and tax cuts should be forgotten until after 2022.

Mr O'Connor called for the creation of an alliance to prioritise investment in housing, health care, education, and to guarantee full collective bargaining rights for every worker.

The union leader will retire as Siptu General President at the end of the year and General Secretary Joe O'Flynn will take over as General Secretary Designate for two years.

Joe Cunningham, who is currently in charge of the union's organising division, is tipped to take over as General Secretary which will become the top job at the union, after this.

During his speech, Mr O'Connor said it is "absolutely obscene" that the parties are promoting tax cuts while thousands of children are homeless in "one of the wealthiest countries in the world". He said it was sad that in the Ireland of today no contradiction is seen between decrying homelessness on the one hand and promoting tax cuts on the other.

"It’s a con job," he said. "What is actually being perpetrated under the guise of promoting the incentive to work or rewarding people is a different thing altogether.

"It’s the criminal degradation of our public services in order to facilitate the wholesale robbery of the people by a veritable army of land hoarders, speculators, licensed drug peddlers and corporate money lenders."

He said it is time to "wake up and smell the roses" because instead of paying tax to fund public services people are paying twice as much and more to these "legalised bandits".

"It is not in any of our interests as individuals that young people have to pay multiples of the cost of building a house to put a roof over their heads, due to the absence of a properly funded public housing programme," he said.

"Neither is it in our interests as individuals that people have to waste their scarce resources paying ever escalating private health insurance premiums, due to the absence of a properly funded public health service. It is not in our interests as individuals, either, that people do not have access to the best education, training and re-skilling facilities in the world, due to the absence of a properly funded education system."

He said those advocating tax cutting, which inevitably disproportionately benefits the better off, conveniently ignore the fact that Ireland’s public spending is joint bottom of the list of EU countries.

He called for a referendum to provide a right to collective bargaining for every worker.

He said the world has entered its fourth industrial revolution, the age of digitalisation, which will see an unprecedented scale and pace of change.

Mr O'Connor said the country is only emerging from the most serious economic collapse experienced in any developed country since the Wall Street Crash.

He said the union has been regaining ground by winning pay rises across the private and commercial semi-state sectors, while pay restoration in the public sector that began in 2015 has been extended.

Mr O'Connor said he hoped the "tragedy of Brexit" will not play out as badly as some anticipate, because too many countries, including the UK, have far too much to lose.

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