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Unions crucial to our human rights

The call from two recent contributors, Ray Behan (Letters, January 24), and E O'Neill (Letters, January 28), for trade unions to be reformed or abolished is not so much scraping the bottom of the barrel as underneath it.

Organised labour in Ireland has benefited workers since the formation of the trade unions to the present time. Larkin and Connolly stood firm against the William Martin Murphys of the time and got the working class up off its knees.

The right to collective organisation is not a privilege bes-towed on workers at the discretion of government, boardroom, or letter writers to the Irish Independent, but a human right.

If we lose the right to organise, we lose the right to be free.

Curiously, neither Mr Behan nor Mr O'Neill called for the abolition of the employers' unions IBEC and ISME and a host of other employers' unions.

These unions are the collective voices of Irish business leaders and employers providing advice and support, representation, lobbying and networking for the benefit of employers. They recognise how vital collective representation is to their material advancement and economic wellbeing.

Some rogue employers are now exploiting the current recession and forcing down wages and standards of living beyond what is reasonable. Supposedly protected public sector workers are being pitted against precariously employed private sector employees.

Social welfare recipients are being pitted against poorly paid immigrant workers. Not since the Great Lockout of 1913 has the need for unionised labour been so great.

Tom Cooper
Knocklyon, Dublin 16

Irish Independent