Sunday 15 September 2019

Massive pension levy protest will bring city to a standstill

Anne-Marie Walsh

DUBLIN city centre will come to a standstill this afternoon as tens of thousands of angry workers protest at the Government's handling of the economic crisis.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen will experience the wrath of his own employees including civil servants, teachers, nurses, gardai, soldiers and local authority workers following his decision to impose a pension levy to save €1.4bn.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) wants the Government to return to talks but individual unions, who are balloting for strike action, believe it may need more concerted action to force a "rethink".

Some union officials last night heralded a "public service war" and warned that the number at today's march could well reach into six figures when it kicks off at 2pm.

Unite said it expected 10,000 of its members to march and had organised buses from Waterford, Dundalk, Drogheda, Cork and Galway; while teacher unions said they were expecting a good turnout from their 55,000 members.

The mass rally will travel along O'Connell Street and down Nassau Street before culminating in Merrion Square.

When the march reaches its final destination, ICTU president Patricia McKeown and general secretary David Begg will address the crowds.

The national demonstration was sparked by the Government's decision to suspend the wage agreement and impose the unpopular pension levy from next month.

The suspension of the pay deal has galvanised private sector union support of the levy protest as leaders fear it may encourage other employers to abandon the deal.

Public sector unions claim they have experienced an unprecedented outpouring of anger to the pension levy, which will reduce their members' take-home pay.

The levy means they must pay the extra percentage of between three and 9.6pc of their salary on top of their existing contributions of up to 6.5pc.

The leader of the biggest union in Ireland and Britain has told Irish members it is time Taoiseach Brian Cowen "grasped the nettle" and came up with a credible economic rescue plan.

Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite which has 2.1 million members worldwide, also told union officials and workers that the "world will be watching" when they take to the streets in opposition to the pension levy today.

Mr Simpson condemned political and financial leaders for failing to tackle the crisis in employment.

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