Twenty years ago (in 1983) the Government put an extra 1% on workers' PRSI. This was to pay for local services, after they abolished domestic rates. Under the agreement reached in 1983, the councils were to be allocated money from this extra 1% contribution. But you just can't trust our rulers. Last year, for example, Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council only got 48% of the money owed to them under this agreement.
Since then they have been trying to make us pay twice for services. We still pay the extra PRSI. To screw more money out of us and fatten up those services they want to privatise, we had the water charge. A long campaign of mass non-payment and physically stopping cut-offs forced the government to back down and abolish that charge.
Now they are at it again with the bin tax. The government reduces taxes on big business and their profits (Corporation tax is now the lowest tax on profits anywhere in the EU) and then tries to dip even deeper into the pockets of working people. In Sligo, for example, the refuse charge has shot up to ¤10 per bag - or over ¤500 per year.
Anyone who believes the government claims about the bin tax being fair or necessary probably also believed Charlie McCreevy when, just before last year's general election, he said "no cutbacks whatsoever are being planned, secretly or otherwise". Since the election the ¤10 billion Health Strategy has been shelved, and now Dublin's Mater Hospital has to treat some of its patients in the car park.
The pledge to end hospital waiting lists within two years has been torn up, and former Minister for Education, Michael Woods, was caught instructing his civil servants to lie about the school building budget. Parents were promised improvements to sub-standard schools, in order to get their votes, when a decision not to go ahead had already been taken.
In return for all the cutbacks we get charged more. The TV licence rose by 40%, the tax on bank cards by 108%, ESB bills by 13%, hospital charges by 26%, bus fares by 9%. Thanks to 'social partnership' our wages, on the other hand, are only allowed to rise by 3% in the private sector and nothing in the public sector until 2004.
The politicians (who are currently paying themselves an extra ¤12,800 each for passing their local authority seats to party colleagues, often family members), the big farmers and the bosses don't hold back when it comes to defending their interests. We should do the same, and no better way to start than by telling them to stuff their bin tax.
This edition is No76 published in August 2003