Teachers’ Union unanimously votes to take Natural Resources into public ownership - update


A motion at the annual Congress of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) today calling for the “setting up of a policy study group” within the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to “conduct an urgent enquiry into …. the feasibility of the Irish state re-taking into public ownership” Ireland’s Natural Resources has been passed by a unanimous vote - a level of support that took even those who strongly supported the motion by surprize.

The motion, proposed by the Dublin North West Branch, comes in the context of unprecedented cutbacks in education services and attacks on teachers’ incomes.  The past weeks have seen numerous threats by government ministers -  Brendan Howlin, Michael Noonan, Ruairi Quinn etc. etc. – that unless the Croke Park Deal delivers ‘sufficient savings’, teachers along with other public sector workers can expect further pay cuts in the autumn.

This motion set out to challenge the concept that ‘There Is No Alternative’ and that it is inevitable that public services and the wages and conditions of workers must be attacked in order to ‘balance the books’.

It challenges the trade union movement to put forward an alternative – based on the use of Ireland’s natural resources for the benefit of the Irish people rather than for the profit sheets of multinational companies.  As the Shell to Sea website puts it:

While people in Ireland are suffering in a recession, being told to tighten their belts, to grin and bear the painful cuts to health, education and their dole, the pension levy, the giant oil companies of the world are preparing to remove Ireland’s valuable natural resources and divvy up the billions of euro of profits between their shareholders.

So the next time you hear a politician defending the Corrib Gas fiasco by mentioning the “national interest”, remember that Corrib actually represents a net loss to the Irish exchequer of tens of billions of euro…[i]

If the trade union movement is to begin to resist the ongoing attacks on the living standards of workers, it is crucial that it develop an answer to the ‘There Is No Alternative’ argument.  The thinking behind this motion is to begin to explore at least one area where that alternative might come from.  It is a good start that the INTO Congress delegates backed the motion -  the union leadership will then have to take this policy to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and use it to build some alternative economic thinking in the wider trade union movement.

The full text of the motion passed was:

Congress calls on the CEC to formally propose within the ICTU the setting up of a policy study group to conduct an urgent enquiry into: 
a. the implications of the official claim made by the Department of Energy and Natural Resources that there is an estimated 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent to be found in Irish international waters, the value of which is now approaching a trillion euro before extraction costs;

b. the current and prospective net value of the offshore oil and gas wealth after estimated extraction costs;
c. the feasibility of the Irish state re-taking into public ownership this enormous wealth given the dire economic situation facing the majority of Irish people;
d. the desirability of establishing a state oil and gas development company along the lines of the Norwegian Statoil Company with a view to also possibly linking up any extraction process with  that company or other state companies on terms favourable to Ireland;
e. the scope for an immediate significant hike in the taxation rate applied to the profits arising from the sale of these resources.

WORDS: Gregor Kerr (updated by Andrew)