Time for profit restraint


Working people in the Irish Republic have been hearing a lot from the representatives of their exploiters lately about the need for us to exercise ‘pay restraint’ and to ‘moderate our demands’ in these difficult times.Brian Cowen tells us that ‘pay restraint under partnership’ is necessary, and will be good for the economy ‘going forward’, like Bertie Ahern said before him. Meanwhile our purchasing power at the supermarket tills, petrol station forecourts and high street shops is shrinking before our eyes. Who are these gangsters trying to fool?

Inflation is currently running at its highest level for twenty years or more because the rise in the price of ever-scarcer resources is being imposed on us as consumers. But we cannot expect any relief in the form of higher wages for our work that makes and sells all that we ourselves consume. The bosses who profit from our daily need to live however do not feel they must themselves live by their message. There is no call from their quarter for them to restrain their profit taking for the common good. On the other hand they have to maintain and even increase their profits to show that Ireland is ‘globally competitive’ and a ‘healthy’ economy.

These messages from the business establishment and government come when the so-called partnership process enters another round of negotiations. Ordinary working folk are not fooled by the self-serving rhetoric coming from the privileged, but the leaderships of the trade unions taking part in the negotiations may not prove so immune. Their good salaries and their high-powered careers mean they don’t really share the concerns and understand the vulnerable situation of hundreds of thousands of their own members. What is described by the high priests of money and (sometimes) ICTU as ‘restructuring’ and ‘flexibility’ workers know by their real names of job losses and casualisation.

We’ll soon see if the unions that generations of workers built and empowered will once again give in to the wheedling demands and threats of the ruling class. We’re all expected in these tough times to rescue the rich and privileged from the consequences of their own mistakes, and make good any of their losses. We on the other hand can expect no such tender care – we are the ones who will make all the sacrifices. Why should we? And why is it always us whose demands must remain unmet, while Capital and Profit march greedily on?

We should, and this author urges you to, put a permanent halt to this unequal sharing-out of risk and reward. We all should be taking action in our unions, homes and streets to oppose the will of those who profit from our lives and work, and put our demands and hopes first for once. We should act to restrain profit, and forever more remove the profiteers from power over our lives!


From Workers Solidarity 104 July August 2008