UNITE formally propose plan of action to ICTU


Jimmy Kelly the Regional Secretary of the Irish region of Unite has formally written to ICTU General Secretary David Begg and ICTU President Jack O’Connor proposing a  Campaign against Austerity Cuts.

Dear David & Jack,

Re: Campaign against Austerity Cuts

The most recent demonstration on November 27th against the Austerity Cuts has to be considered a success.

It also clearly reflected cross-community support including, students, pensioners, community activists and trade unionists.

Once again, it shows that the public will respond to leadership from the ICTU in relation to the economic crisis. 

Following on from the successful ICTU-led march, it is now becoming clear that a consensus is emerging over an alternative economic, fiscal and banking strategy to that of the Government’s and the prevailing austerity orthodoxy. The following looks at the main points of that consensus.

1. Taxation
A number of groups have argued for a substantial increase in taxation for 2011, impacting mostly on high income groups. Community Platform has argued for a €3 billion increase; similarly with TASC. ICTU has proposed a menu of tax increases totalling over €2 billion while UNITE and other Unions have similarly called for €2 billion. Labour has also called for €2 billion in increases, mostly impacting on high-income groups.

 There is a clear consensus around €2 billion or more in tax increases on high-income groups.

2. Public Spending
There are no social/community groups arguing for cuts in current public expenditure beyond marginal adjustments (TASC has proposed €300 million in cuts but these are regressive expenditures such as subsidies to private health/education). Community Platform’s programme cancels out the need for both current and capital spending. UNITE has argued that any savings on current expenditure be re-invested into domestic demand, thus ensuring no cuts in overall current spending. ICTU has called for marginal reductions (e.g. €800 million).

There is a clear consensus that there should be no cuts in current expenditure beyond marginal amounts where specified and which impact on subsidies to high-income groups.

3. Investment
TASC has argued for a €3 billion recovery fund for next year to be spent on a range of investment options. UNITE has called for a similar amount of €3 billion as part of a five-year €15 billion investment package while ICTU has called for €2 billion. The other groups have not specifically addressed the issue of investment but there would be no problem in principle with this measure. All the three bodies who support increased investment want it sourced from the State’s cash and assets (e.g. Pension Fund).

- Clear consensus for a sizeable multi-year public investment programme.

4. Bank Debt and the IMF / EU bail-out
TASC, UNITE and ICTU spokespersons have all called for a rejection of the current IMF / EU bail-out programme. No doubt, this will be shared by others. The two main reasons are that (a) it continues a policy of pushing private banking debt on to state debt, and (b) it continues the policy of austerity.

The measures above deal with the policies of austerity. Regarding the former – putting private banking debt on to state debt – while no model has been agreed, there is a general consensus throughout the population, including economists across the ideological spectrum, that the State should wash its hands of private banking debt.

- A consensus on the rejection of the IMF/EU bailout can focus on the demand that the Government will no longer be bound to honour private banking debt. A possible addition to this would be to refuse to be bound by that element of the state debt that constitutes private banking debt.

5. Summary of Points of Consensus
In terms of campaigning, it is highly beneficial to crystallise the points of this emerging consensus into cogent and straightforward demands. Of course, there will be caveats and conditions but as starting points, clarity is essential. This is a suggested formulation based on the above points of consensus.

1. Increase taxation on those who can afford it – high-income and high-wealth groups.

2. No cuts in the overall level of public spending.

3. A multi-year, multi-billion programme of public investment.

4. Banks and their bondholders should be responsible for their own debt, not the people.

These demands have the best chance of mobilising the broadest possible coalition of social and civil organisations. ICTU should immediately convene a meeting of representatives from the community, voluntary and social sectors with these demands at the heart of the agenda.

This could be the basis of a campaign that will take us into next year, the next election and beyond.

We also consider that an integral component of this campaign is the need for work stoppage/s. This process should be commenced by the EC setting a date for the institution of ballots by affiliated unions. The mechanics of organizing such a ballot would most likely mean the first stoppage would take place on a date in January 2011.

We believe that this is necessary to send a signal to Government that there is an Alternative Economic Strategy, but more importantly to send a clear message to the Government in waiting, that adherence or pursuance of the current Government arrangements is unacceptable.

The Labour Party has indicated that it will not consider itself bound by these arrangements, but it is necessary to ensure that the policy platform adopted by any incoming Government incorporates the policies and strategies contained in the ICTU Better and Fairer Way Campaign and indeed our own recently launched People’s Budget.

It should be possible to extract a number of key rallying points, such as;

Yes to Jobs and Growth
No to cuts to the Minimum Wage
No to cuts to Social Welfare
Protect Pay and Pension Savings
Protect Public Services
No to Cuts in Community Services

We would therefore propose that the Executive Council give consideration to supporting a work stoppage on a date to be agreed as part of the continuing Campaign Against the Austerity Cuts.

Yours sincerely,
Jimmy Kelly
Unite - Regional Secretary