Saturday 24 March 2018

Unite urges national strike

One of the country's leading trade unions today called for a national strike to force a new government to radically re-think economic policy.

Unite, which has 60,000 members, also urged people not to back proposed budget measures, including water charges, under a campaign of civil disobedience.

Dismissing the Government's drastic four-year savings blueprint, the union said its alternative plan to hike taxes by €8bn and introduce a €15bn investment programme would grow the economy faster.

Jimmy Kelly, Unite regional secretary, said mass marches would achieve nothing.

"We're absolutely convinced that marching the streets on Saturdays for the rest of this year and the rest of next year won't achieve the pressure that we need to put on these politicians," Mr Kelly said.

"We're saying that we need to look at the alternative which is taking strike action as part of the process."

More than 50,000 people took to the streets of Dublin on Saturday to protest against the Government's austerity measures.

Mr Kelly said the public could sit passively and accept "what's thrown at us" or we can down tools and begin with a half-day work stoppage.

And he said it was time to move away from the social partnership link with the Government.

The trade union movement needs to regain its independence," Mr Kelly said.

"There's no doubt that over 20 years of partnership, that independence was totally diluted and abandoned."

The union is to put its strike proposal to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions but would not comment on what would happen if it was rejected.

"It's about how we influence what's going to replace that current government and I'm convinced that strike action has to be part of that," the trade union leader said.

The union claims its alternative four-year plan, named the People's Budget, will grow the economy by 3.8% on average a year, compared with the Government's estimated 2.7pc.

The plan will see €8bn raised in taxes, but only high-earners would be hit next year.

Some €15bn would be ring-fenced in the National Pension Reserve Fund and the state's cash reserves for an investment programme which Unite said would boost jobs, raise living standards and increase public sector efficiency.

The union said there should be no cut in spending and claims every €1bn invested will create up to 12,000 jobs, grow the economy by 1pc a year and boost tax reserves by €400m in the first year.

Over 20,000 jobs would be created in the first year of the investment plan, Unite estimates.

Work will be done in boosting the broadband service, upgrading the energy-efficiency of buildings and modernising the country's water network.

Unite has written to opposition parties asking them to renegotiate the EU/IMF bailout if they enter government.

The union said the Government's four-year plan will grow the economy by just 1.8pc and reduce the budget deficit to 5.9pc of Gross Domestic Product by 2014, not the expected 2.7pc and 2.8pc predictions respectively.

Unite claims its package will grow the economy by 3.8pc, and reduce the deficit to 4.9pc by 2014, with the 3pc target met by 2017.

Press Association

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