Union Rejection. What Now?

Last week’s rejection of the Croke Park 11 Agreement by the majority of the Trade Union Organisations in the State shows how the Government has clearly got things so wrong in their implementation and pursuit of their failed and discredited policy of austerity since they were elected to office over two years ago.

Before the agreement was ever put to the test any group of politicians unless they were completely blinkered would have realised that the chances of getting such an unlikely deal through the democratic voting process was particularly slim indeed. Did they seriously expect that hard working and dedicated people such as nurses, other health workers, teachers and so forth would agree to a further cut in their already badly diminished salaries and vote to work longer hours after the tumble they had already taken in their pay and conditions since the present Government came to power. Do they really think that these health workers, teachers and others in the public service are complete eejits? Government Ministers are now bawling and howling in their quest for public sympathy and telling us that they are going to run out of funds by July unless they screw the public servants. But where is all the money they gave away to the non viable banks, to the bond holders and all those on outrageous incomes, are all those not liable for and expected to pay their share which if the Government pretends to be fair should be a substantial share. But will the Government do anything like this. Not likely indeed; for us the ordinary common people such a giant step by the authorities would of course be unthinkable, is it not so much easier to target the hard pressed public service workers and others who are on modest pay or even in some of the lower income groups and squeeze as much as possible out of them.  This is being done without any regard to the ever increasing rising cost of essential household necessities, the care of children in the home and the expense of sending them first to national school, then to secondary and later on to college if the parents can afford it. There are not many of us of the older generation who brought up our families in somewhat less trying times who would not fancy being parents of a young family in the present difficult austerity period.  All credit to the young parents and there are many of them who are doing their best. But it certainly is no easy task to keep food on the table, send the children to school and otherwise care for their needs. To hold down a job if one has got one or maybe two if a couple are lucky enough to have them. Then in many other cases there are huge mortgages to pay so there are some people no matter how hard they try are still finding it difficult to cope. It is in such circumstances that the young people of today now find themselves in and the worst of it all is that there are no worthwhile prospects for the future yet on the horizon. Last Saturday morning Richard Bruton, speaking on television at the Trade talks, claimed that the Government are creating several jobs each month.  If that is the case then where are all these jobs? Or did he really mean that young Irish people were finding them in Britain, the United States, Australia, Canada and elsewhere.  If the Government actually believed that there were so many jobs on offer here in our own State how has it come about that there are so many able bodied skilled and intelligent people throughout the country having to resort to drawing the dole or similar handouts.  But there are even others as we all know further down the line of want and poverty who are depending on the Red Cross, the St Vincent de Paul and other hard pressed charitable and voluntary organisations to keep the wolf away from the door.  That is unfortunately the position of many in Ireland today including those who have become the new poor because they took out unmanageable loans and mortgages in better and more prosperous times when there was plenty money going around and particularly full employment available for all those who were inclined to work. No doubt there were some of those new struggling debt-ridden families and in some cases individuals who to a great extent have only themselves to blame for their predicament.  They wanted to build mansions (not just houses) that were entirely outside of their means or requirements and now sadly they are at the mercy of the banks and the building societies who lent them the money.  They now live in the shadow of having their homes repossessed unless they are prepared to negotiate a deal with the lenders which is unlikely to be in their favour.

We may have wandered a little from the result of the Union’s ballot last week and rejection of the Government’s Croke Park 11 terms.  But all this was in the cause of pointing out the hardships that so many ordinary people including those in the public service are going through and their inability to respond anymore to further Government demands.  If Brendan Howlin and his Cabinet colleagues will attempt to legislate to extract the demands from those in the public service by compulsion that would surely be a very risky road to go down. That would most likely be a recipe for a type of industrial unrest the likes of which has not been seen in this country for a long, long time.  The choice is now up to the Government. On the one hand they can choose confrontation with the Unions, on the other they can demonstrate restraint, common sense and understanding.  But there is one thing absolutely certain the Coalition cannot expect to have it both ways.

If there is anybody who might want to question my experience of Unions here it is: Member of Tralee Branch Irish Distributive Workers and clerks early ‘50’s. Member and North Kerry Branch Secretary of the Assurance Representatives organisation (New Ireland) mid ‘50’s. Member of the Confederation of Health Service Employees 1957 – 1967 (England). Branch Secretary North Somerset and Bristol Branch Confederation of Health Service Employees mid ‘60’s.

Late Enoch Powell, who was the Tory Minister for Health during some of the above years, had a number of close encounters with nursing staffs over pay and conditions at the time in Britain. Enoch was something of a character in those days. He later left the Tory Party and joined the Unionist Party in the Six Counties where he contested some elections.

The Boston Bombing

The whole civilised world was shocked and saddened by the bombing atrocity carried out in the city of Boston last week while people, many of them Irish, were out enjoying themselves taking part in and attending the annual City Marathon Race. The sudden ferocity with which the bombs exploded and the killing and maiming of so many innocent victims was all so deplorable. Particularly sad was the death of eight year old Martin Richard who is said to have Irish connections.

May God rest all who died and comfort their relatives and the injured.