The Irish Congress of Trade Unions is supposed to co-ordinate the efforts of our unions. In reality its officers are pretty far removed from the lifestyle and living standards of the rest of us. They are much more likely to be on first name terms with government ministers and top industrialists than with any ordinary union member.
Begg's disgraceful statement included "Congress does not support the current anti-bin charges campaign", Well every union - including the biggest union in the country, SIPTU - that has discussed the bin tax has voted against it. But maybe democracy doesn't count for much when you are a self-described 'social partner' of the government and bosses. "the campaign may ultimately lead to privatisation of bin collections and a potential loss of jobs". The man can't be so stupid that he believes this, but maybe he thinks the rest of us are. It is only when charges can be successfully collected that services become attractive to profiteering business people. And surely Begg knows that 41 of the 77 local authorities have already privatised their rubbish collection. Of course, we never heard him condemning that.
"(Higgins and Daly) are wrong to be leading ordinary working people into a cul de sac of imprisonment in pursuit of a political objective". Seemingly our great leader can not believe that ordinary working people are capable of thinking for ourselves. The tens of thousands of non-payers are not dupes of anyone.
The Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union put it very well in their statement "if you fight you don't always win but if you don't fight you will never win". A lot of people are involved in this struggle because they think it is important to make a stand.
The bin tax is part of the process which has seen a huge transfer of wealth from workers to bosses. Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that in 1987 wages and salaries amounted to 59% of Gross Domestic Product, while profits and rents taken by capitalists amounted to 41%.
By 2001 the proportion going to workers had fallen to 46% while profits and rents rose to 54%. Partnership deals have given us crumbs while the bosses laughed all the way to their tax dodging offshore bank accounts. And that's the set-up Begg defends.
The ATGWU went on to say "Mr Begg is a partner of the government and employers and if that partnership requires him to attack his own members, abandon his own policies, then that is what he will do. Why doesn't the executive of the ICTU try a partnership with its own members and these working class communities?"
Begg finishes his statement with "Congress will seek a meeting with the Minister for Finance to press the case for a more just and progressive approach to financing pubic services" Yeah, I bet that has Martin Cullen quaking in his boots.
Workplace struggles and the unions
This edition is No78 published in November 2003