The RTE group of unions said that any changes will have to be founded on a partnership based on consultation, negotiation and agreement. The Secretary of the group said an early agreement in a partnership structure for advancing the process of change would be a useful start in building trust (Irish Times, 27.6.98). RTE had just released a war plan and the unions responded by calling for a partnership. Once the slogan would have been 'defend jobs'; now the bloodcurdling battle cry is 'an early agreement on a partnership structure!'
The RTE Authority welcomed the report. Is our Vice-President still on it?
'SIPTU Report' No. 7 (June 98) tells us that at Aer Lingus "discussions under the Partnership Framework continue" and that "training in the partnership method of problem- solving is due to commence shortly". Some of this method would not be lost on Bernie Cahill, John Behan, Mary O'Rourke and the TEAM management team (still part of Aer Lingus).
The workers there have still not been paid rises due under Partnership 2000; a shop steward, Denis Smyth, was unfairly dismissed; the workers were cajoled into TEAM with letters guaranteeing their Aer Lingus employment which they are now being bullied into surrendering, with the company coming back again and again until it gets the answer it wants; individual interviews, threats of closure and welching on return to Aer Lingus - all so that Mary O'Rourke can privatise a public industry and sell it to FLS. Quote from Mary O'Rourke, in relation to letters (another legacy from Haughey that turned to dust): "No one has a job for life any more".
A SIPTU official for TEAM (RTE Radio, 1 July) added his bit of 'persuasion' to those still holding on to their parachutes by saying FLS ownership was the way forward. Have SIPTU officials a job for life?
A far more damaging indictment of social partnership than we could manage is carried in a couple of short paragraphs in the 'Irish Times' editorial of Saturday, 20 June.
"The facts of tax evasion, as we now know them, bear repetition. About 700 individuals or companies had money or shares in the Ansbacher deposits or in National Irish Bank's offshore bank schemes. Some 53,000 bogus non-resident accounts, containing nearly £600 million, were held with Allied Irish Banks alone by Irish residents who wished to avoid tax or hide their affairs from the Revenue.
The extent of tax evasion cannot be unrelated to the lenient manner in which evaders are treated. The culture of tax evasion has been actively encouraged by government. The tax amnesties introduced by Fianna Fáil in 1986 and 1993 were rightly described as a 'charter for cheats'."
Now brothers and sisters, stop overheating the economy. The first ever custodial sentence for tax evasion (half a million in the Isle of Man) was given in June in Galway ...and promptly suspended. The former managing director of Cavan Crystal withheld £165,000 in taxes and recently 'walked' from the courtroom.
After three months the Ryanair enquiry still hasn't reported. Since our last issue the Sunday Tribune reported that the enquiry might urge curbing of strike rights at Dublin Airport (what a backfire!), and another set of SIPTU members have been sacked!
We spoke before of the implications of the unmasking of Charlie Haughey for social partnership of which he was a chief architect. Also of the SIPTU/ITGWU factor. Ray Burke, another early partner who had rather stranger partnerships with big business, it seems, also produced an interesting if minor SIPTU link, though it's none of SIPTU's doing.
Earlier in the Fitzwilton exposés it was noted that directors from two Fitzwilton subsidiaries, Novum as well as Rennicks, handed the chicken's neck to Ray Burke because both companies were in his constituency. Now Novum Press-O-Matic are a long standing company in the Dublin Electronics and Engineering Branch.
Some time ago, the same Branch entered into dispute with Rennicks because of the company's refusal to recognise the Union. Government Minister, party to the Programme for National Recovery (forerunner of P2000), receives £30,000 donation from anti-union firm.
One of the settlements with the Revenue Commissioners for previous faulty tax returns, published in June, was for £108,042 paid by Mr. John Quinn, a director of Creative Yarns Ltd., Longford. The joke's not so private anymore.
Early June saw Professor Brendan Walsh tell the government that the promises of tax cuts under Partnership 2000 should not be honoured. Walsh is one of economic 'experts' who advise politicians and captains of industry. Not only did he want us to be denied the tax cuts which the government has pledged in return for us taking pathetically small wage rises, he went on to advise that the "best strategy" would also include substantial cuts in current spending, particularly in the public sector pay bill.
He said that if the unions saw his proposal as "reneging" on P2000, "then so be it". So what was the response from the union head offices? Not a lot. ICTU general secretary Peter Cassells managed to get out a statement saying that the government should ignore him.
However when the craft workers wanted their analogue agreement implemented without any strings (i.e. they should get what was agreed) union leaders were falling over themselves to condemn the workers. A cynic might suggest that many of union tops are more worried by their own members taking action to get what has been agreed than they are about suggestions that we don't even get what the little that was promised.
Walsh is not some minor economist with strange ideas. His stature is such that the Irish Times ran three separate features dealing with his pronouncement - on one day alone (June 13th). His message was clear - workers should put out of their heads any notion about it being "payback time". And we didn't see a rush of union officials, politicians or 'social partners' disagreeing with him.
At a time when economic growth is running at 10%-12%, when house prices are going through the roof, and there is so much money around that already a dozen separate Tribunals have been set up to look into the brown paper bag corruption of our rulers - Walsh wants our living standards cut even further. Our union leaders could have reacted by demanding more for the people who actually create all the wealth (i.e. you, your workmates and the rest of the working class) ...but it would be just a wee bit naive to expect that from Cassells, Geraghty & co. Silly to even suggest it...