Tuesday 20 February 2018

Members divided over deal with FG

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

TRADE union members of the Labour Party were divided last night over whether it should join forces with Fine Gael in a new government.

Affiliate union Unite urged the party to lead a left-wing opposition and "resist the lure" of government with Enda Kenny's party.

But SIPTU said it should join forces with Fine Gael to prevent it launching an "assault" on the low paid and public servants and selling off "precious state assets".

SIPTU general president Jack O'Connor said the "political and financial establishment" favoured a Fine Gael majority government, or a minority one supported by right-wing independents. He claimed this "establishment" wanted the "complete exclusion of Labour".

Fine Gael has promised to reverse the minimum wage cut, but is set to clash with unions on its policy to slash the number of public servants by 30,000.

It is also likely to meet resistance to its plan to amend the system that sets legally binding minimum wages for workers in low-paid sectors, including retail and contract cleaning.

"Fine Gael is planning an assault on the low paid and wants to sell off precious state assets," Mr O'Connor said. "A balanced government with a Labour input will help to protect and create jobs, social welfare levels and public services."

He said 1,000 jobs were created each week during the last Labour and Fine Gael coalition, while university fees were abolished and child benefit rose to its highest level.


"Now 1,000 young people are leaving the country each week and yet more austerity instead of a strategy for investment, jobs and growth is being proposed by the right-wing parties."

But Unite urged Labour to "hold its nerve" and head a left-wing coalition that included Sinn Fein and the United Left Alliance.

"This election was about change," regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said. "Part of the change was unequivocal -- the removal of Fianna Fail from power -- but the rest is now in the hands of the Labour Party.

"The people did not vote for an FG overall majority. Their policies on privatisation and income cuts did not attract enough support and should not be facilitated by the tired old fallback of coalition with Labour."

The Labour Party has four union affiliates -- SIPTU, Unite, the Dublin City Council branch of IMPACT, and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association. Between them, they pay member fees of €109,000 a year, which represents 4.2pc of the party's income.

Irish Independent

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