People who read this blog may know that I am no fan of Fine Gael. Since their landslide victory in 2011 they have pursued an agenda that has led to terrible hardship amongst the poorer members of society.
Homelessness is on the rise, we still have direct provision, the health service is on its knees, we have multiple new taxes, and public servants (in the truest sense of that term) have had to make huge sacrifices For The Good Of The Country. We were sold this sacrifice ‘For The Good Of All’, for the good of the country, and shur, dontcha know that it’s only temporary and we’ll get your pay back as soon as we can.
Well, weren’t we in for the surprise.
Across the public service workers were implicitly accused of being ‘unproductive’. Apparently the cure for this was to cut staffing levels and ask everyone to work an extra 33 hours per year for free. Please feel free to define ‘Productivity’ as it applies to doctors, nurses, gardai, or teachers.
Add to this the slashing of budgets, the degradation of working conditions, and a concerted media campaign have ensured a demoralised public service. Let us not forget the fear factor. FEMPI has been waved as a stick to go with the elusive carrot in negotiations.
Some of what has been done is reprehensible. The different pay scales for new entrants is abhorrent. It has also been used to drive a wedge into the unions.
You see, despite the claims that the unions have sold out their junior members, I think that its more simple and more depressing than that. The government negotiators outmanoeuvred the unions. I do believe the unions should have taken up the fight for young members a lot sooner.
However, as the saying goes, if the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.
The unions are finally standing up for their younger members – and in some cases the fight is about restoring pay to pre-2008 levels.
And the government are going to fight this tooth and nail. Just look at the use of FEMPI against ASTI members following the rejection of the latest agreement.
For whatever ideological reason, some branches of the media are backing up the government on this. In the Independent today Eddie Molloy argued that giving into the unions would ‘hurt us all’. Of course he used far more emotive language. Also today the editorial in the Indo refers to the GRA pay claims as ‘Brinkmanship‘, and that it ‘holds us all to ransom.
This stuff is hard to stomach. Across the public service employees have faced sub-standard wages for the bones of a decade. And yet now that we are told that the recession is over, now that we have been asked to ‘keep the recovery going’, now that the central bank can say that government finances are 1/2 billion ahead of target (again), now we are accused of being selfish.
Now is the time for the unions to stand together and fight for reversals of the cuts that have plagued the public service. Of course there are differences of opinion within the unions. We are democratic organisations and difference is healthy. But enough is enough. We need to fight the government and its anti-public service agenda.
And don’t buy the indo.
I love this piece on Capuchin monkeys rejecting pay inequality: