Get up, Stand up – Join the Protests on Friday

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Originally posted on joe.higgins.eu

Working people in both the private and public sectors and their families, together with those depending on social welfare payments and their families should turn out together in massive numbers to the eight regional protest demonstrations called by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions this Friday.

This should not merely be an opportunity to express outrage at the economic and political establishment who are responsible for plunging society into the present crisis but part of a serious strategy to force a change in the policy which dictates that it is working people and social welfare recipients who will carry the burden for the crisis.

There is an enormous barrage of propaganda in sections of the media to denigrate and belittle the protests on Friday. This is an intensification of the ongoing hate campaign directed at public sector workers by one major newspaper group in particular since the summer of last year.

This is an unscrupulous campaign where fact and reality are not allowed get in the way of propaganda. The impression is fostered that just about every worker in the public sector is earning over €100,000 a year. In the real world of course most public sector workers are low to middle income earners. They are County Council workers, clerical officers, teachers and nurses. Their wages and salaries have as little relationship to the Secretary Generals of Government Departments as do the wages of ordinary bank workers to those of their Chief Executives.

These workers are told in an accusatory way, as if it were a crime, that they have job security and defined benefit pensions. Onslaughts like this should be met with the riposte, ‘Why shouldn’t workers be entitled to a secure job?’ and, having worked a lifetime and contributed to society, ‘Why shouldn’t they be entitled to retire in reasonable comfort?’ All workers whether in the private or public spheres.

This would turn on its head the trite argument that if workers in private companies are losing their jobs and having their pensions scaled back, this should also apply to public sector workers? The question should be, why do we tolerate a system that wants to keep workers in a precarious state of uncertainty about whether they will be able to earn a living? And why shouldn’t every worker be entitled to a decent pension.

This of course raises the question of how wealth is created and shared in our society, and raises especially the question as to who controls the creation and distribution of that wealth? This goes to the very heart of how the capitalist system operates.

The campaign by media and right wing economists to undermine public sector workers is all about creating the conditions whereby working people generally will be persuaded to accept the policy pushed by government and big business that it is they, the workers, who must take the rap for this the most serious crisis in the capitalist system since the 1930s.The aim is to undermine the confidence of public sector workers by insisting that they should feel privileged to have a job. It is to say to workers in the private sector that the natural order of things is for them to have no job security and to have their incomes under pressures and their pensions schemes depending on the gamblers on the world’s finance markets and stock exchanges and to prove this by dragging conditions for workers in the public service into the same precarious situation.

It is despicable to see the Labour Party refusing to support workers taking industrial action to defend themselves. While claiming to be opposed to cuts in the wages of low and middle income public sector workers, Labour is at the same time keeping in with the establishment by opposing industrial action.

In an extraordinary intervention Labour’s youngest Deputy, Sean Sherlock of Cork East, declared himself ‘vehemently opposed’ to the day of action on Friday. In a line straight out of the propaganda that has been poured out for over a year now, he declares that workers standing up to resist cuts is ‘an affront to anybody who does not have a job and is struggling.’

Over the next few days, and again before the planned industrial action by frontline public services staff on November 24th workers will be subjected to an endless torrent of hostile propaganda because they dare to stand against the policy of the establishment. They should ignore it. If they are cowed, the attacks on their wages and condition will simply get worse and worse. It should not be forgotten that the programme of slash and burn is designed to go on for a duration of three to four years. Not to fight back is to invite even more intense attacks. That is why workers, the unemployed and pensioners must stand together.

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One Response

  1. Marise

    November 5, 2009 3:16 pm

    Thank you, now I don’t feel quite so alone in my thoughts. Every time I hear one of these economists or officials say that public sector pay must come into line with private sector pay, I think, “Why shouldn’t it be the other way around?” What the public sector has right now is close to what many (if not most) private sector workers used to have.

    I resent them trying to set us against each other. As long as the public sector has these salaries, the private sector salaries will be buoyed. And unlike the private sector, the public sector can’t easily up stakes and move to Chengdu Province. As long as they keep that benchmark of what compensation should be, we private sector folks have a chance of keeping wages above maquiladora level.

    I’m tired of hearing how we need to cut our hard-won standard of living to be “competitive.” Compete with who? China? Latvia? Then why the hell did we work so hard to begin with?

    Speaking of maquiladora, I was boiling mad after seeing a snippet of a speech from Angel Gurria, Sec. Gen. of the OECD. The cheek of the man, saying that the social welfare payments here are high by EU standards — even though it’s been shown that, taking all benefits into account, we’re middlin’ in the EU-15. If we’re higher than EU-27, well, again, do we want to roll back Ireland’s progress to the mid-20th Century?

    But that wasn’t what set me off like a kettle. He went on to say that they were so high that they approached salaried work (maybe for minimum wage/25-hour week jobs scrubbing toilets), and then the Irish wouldn’t want to work.

    Where was this guy during the Tiger, when the benefits were higher, but unemployment had to be viewed with a magnifying glass? Even in the past year, I have heard corporate officials singing the praises of the Irish workforce, saying that we’re well-educated, productive, easy-going, and hard-working — but according to Gurria, we’d all go on an extended siesta given a good excuse and 800 WHOLE EUROS a month? Grrrr!

    Since I believe pro-cyclical cuts make things worse and should not be pursued, the only reason to cut benefits is to make those minimum-wage, part-time jobs look like Ambrosia. And so the downward spiral continues. If they successfully cut wages and benefits, they will not be restored — they will be gone, and it will take the violence of the early 20th Century to get them back.

    Those early, intrepid organisers were vilified, beaten, imprisoned and killed in order to win these rights we enjoy. I think it would be tragic to have more people suffer that way just to get back what we already had.