| 14.9°C Dublin

Unions on collision course with Labour over treaty

UNIONS are on a collision course with the Labour Party over urging voters to reject the EU fiscal treaty referendum next month.

The latest poll shows the Coalition cannot be complacent about passing the referendum -- as more than half of voters don't understand the treaty.

The Government continues to rebuff union demands in return for backing a Yes vote. Mandate became the latest union to call for a No vote yesterday, following UNITE's condemnation of the fiscal pact. SIPTU is already demanding a €10bn stimulus plan to call for a Yes vote.

However, a decision by the unions' umbrella body, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), hangs in the balance as it meets this week to decide its position. Although there are signs its executive council may back the treaty, general secretary David Begg is also fearful of the consequences of a Yes vote.

But European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton insisted it was a "fantasy" to say rejecting the treaty will help workers.

Polling figures yesterday showed 42pc voting Yes, 27pc No and 32pc don't know yet.

Excluding the undecided voters, the Behaviour and Attitudes survey for 'The Sunday Times' concluded the gap was a 61pc Yes vote to a 39pc No.

Mandate became the latest union to advise its 45,000 members, who work in the retail and bar trades, to vote No in the referendum on the EU pact yesterday.

Speaking at his union's conference in Wexford, Mandate general secretary John Douglas warned members that the treaty would not create a single job.

"On the contrary, it will legally lock down Irish economic activity at its current levels, and may even shrink domestic demand further leading to mass unemployment, decades of emigration and sow the seeds for future social conflict," he said.

Mr Douglas described the fiscal compact as "a treaty of the Right for the Right".

Following a series of meetings, ICTU, whose affiliate unions represent 600,000 workers, will make its decision on the treaty this week.

Mr Begg said he personally felt that the worst-case scenario would be that the wording of the treaty was embedded in the Constitution.

"I had hoped it wouldn't come to a referendum, so then at least if the treaty was passed there was the prospect that things could be changed politically. There is a danger that every other country may be able to make changes afterwards, but we won't because it may be hardwired into our Constitution.

Consequences

"However, we are caught between a rock and a hard place and will have to take account of the consequences of rejecting the thing," he said.

He added that there were a lot of "problematic elements", including how the structural deficit would be calculated under the new rules. Mr Begg said unions' links with Labour were often overstated, as not all unions are affiliated with it.

SIPTU described the treaty's strict budgetary controls as the "worst-possible scenario".

However, it will back the fiscal compact if the Government agrees to implement a €10bn stimulus programme, funded from pension funds, to create thousands of jobs.

A rejection of the treaty by a large number of unions would be embarrassing for Labour as it is affiliated to several of the organisations.

Figures supplied by the Labour Party show its total income from trade unions last year was €110,257, 4pc of its turnover.

The affiliated unions are SIPTU, IMPACT, UNITE, the Transport Salaried Staff Association and the Union of Construction and Allied Trades.

Irish Independent