Divided ICTU decides not to advise workers which way to vote
THE trade union movement is not advising workers how to vote in next month's referendum due to deep internal divisions over the fiscal treaty.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions will not issue a recommendation on how members should vote after its 31-member Executive Council failed to reach agreement yesterday.
General secretary David Begg described the referendum as a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" scenario.
He said all union leaders agreed the treaty was "bad", but were at odds over the implications for the country's access to emergency funding.
Although the union umbrella body is not making a recommendation, individual unions are free to advise members as they wish.
ICTU's failure to take a position is a blow to the Government after Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore warned workers that a No vote posed a major threat to state funding for pay and public services.
However, it is likely to get a boost today as the largest public sector union IMPACT is expected to throw its weight behind the treaty at a meeting of its Central Executive Committee.
"Nobody at all in our ranks is in agreement with the fiscal treaty," said Mr Begg, after the meeting in Dublin. "Everybody thinks it's a bad treaty with which neither we nor our country really had a great deal of engagement."
He said "the great difficulty" for the country was that the vote may decide whether it had access to European stability funding in the future, after the current funding system expires towards the end of next year.
Mr Begg said this would be "very difficult to manage at national level" when the State runs out of money late next year or early 2014. He refused to say how he will vote.
SIPTU has said it will only recommend a Yes vote if the Government produces a €10bn jobs stimulus package, paid out of pension funds. A spokesman said this did not mean it was recommending a No vote or taking a neutral stance.
UNITE and Mandate are strongly in the 'No camp', with most of the remaining unions taking a neutral stance.
Employer group IBEC accused some treaty opponents of misleading the public by claiming alternative state funding will be available if there is a No vote.