The trade union movement and the Lisbon treaty

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A number of weeks ago, a member of the INTO (Irish National Teachers Organisation) submitted a letter for publication in the union magazine ‘In Touch’. This was in response to a request in the previous issue of the magazine for members to write letters for publication.The letter dealt with the topic of the Lisbon Treaty and outlined the author’s opinion that union members should Vote No in the referendum. However the author received a reply from the magazine editor (a full-time INTO official) saying that the letter would not be published because it was long-standing union policy not to take a stance on political matters.

A couple of weeks later, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions took a vote to decide its stance on Lisbon. To be consistent with the ‘long standing policy’ referred to above, one would expect that the INTO representatives at the Congress meeting would abstain. But amazingly that is not what happened. In fact the INTO representatives at the Congress meeting voted in favour of recommending a Yes vote to Lisbon. Even more amazingly, it has since emerged that the issue was not even discussed at CEC (Central Executive Committee) level within the union. It seems that the union leadership simply looked into their hearts and knew what the members would think!

Whatever one’s views on Lisbon, this affront to democracy and contempt for the views of ordinary members should shock and anger all trade unionists. I’d be interested to know how other unions – those for and against the Treaty came to their position. If this level of contempt for democracy is allowed to go unchallenged, it will have serious repercussions for all trade unionists.

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