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Kieran Allen is the author of the Booklet Reasons to VOTE NO to the Lisbon Treaty and a number of other books, including The Corporate Take Over of Ireland (2007) and The Celtic Tiger: The Myth of Social Partnership (2000)

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Latest 06.09.2009

The SIPTU leadership does not respect democracy

The SIPTU leadership has caved in to Labour Party pressure and has come out for a Yes vote on the Lisbon Treaty. The decision was made without any democratic involvement of the wider membership. However Most of SIPTU members, are likely to vote No.

Once again, the union leaders have shown their spineless and cowardly side. During the last referendum, the union's National Executive Committee issued a statement where they 'decided to insist on a government commitment to legislate for a right to the benefits of "proper collective bargaining" (including prohibition of discrimination against workers seeking to exercise that right) before lending its support to the Treaty'.

This demand arose because of a Supreme Court case taken by Ryanair which effectively dismantled the weak provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 2001 which would have forced companies to engage with unions via a Labour Court procedure.

In December 2008, after the referendum was defeated, SIPTU President Jack O Connor stated that 'It is critical that the wounds inflicted on social infrastructure protecting people's rights at work by a number of controversial decisions are addressed... Any formula for presentation to the Irish people which does not address these issues comprehensively is doomed to failure'.

SIPTU made two demands as its price for supporting Lisbon:

    1. That domestic law be changed to guarantee the right to collective bargaining.
    2. That measures be taken to reverse the damaging effects of the Laval, Viking, Ruffert and Luxemburg judgements of the European Court of Justice.

In the intervening year, NOTHING has been conceded on either of these two issues.

The government has introduced no legislation to establish legal rights to collective bargaining. Matters have actually become worse as there has been a return to an older pattern of employers rushing to the courts to get injunctions against workers.

At an EU level, the unions did not even get verbal concessions. According to the Daily Telegraph, 'Mr Cowen had asked for a legally binding promise upholding 'social progress and workers rights' as a key concession to buy off Irish trade unions', but following 'crisis talks' and 'emergency meetings' with French President Nicholas Sarkozy and Brian Cowen. the trade union friendly 'legal guarantees' were dropped'.

Yet despite the failure on both fronts, SIPTU has caved in to the political establishment.

The justification for this abject act of cowardice is even more incredible. It states that the Labour Party has given a clear commitment on 'collective bargaining rights' when it is next in government and this is sufficient to allow them to change their minds on Lisbon

The three main leaders of SIPTU - Jack O Connor, Joe Flynn, and Brendan Hayes - are members of the Labour Party. Indeed, a Labour Party membership card is almost a condition for promotion within SIPTU.

So here we have union leaders asking their party leader for a promise - and this is deemed sufficient to use the name of the union to call for a Yes vote.

Yet Eamonn Gilmore once stated that the Lisbon Treaty was dead and that last year's vote of the Irish people should be respected. But he went back on that.

The SIPTU leader's recommendation is therefore based on a pathetic promise from a politician who has already a record of breaking his commitments.

Booklet cover: Reasons to Vote No to the Lisbon Treaty
  • Booklet: 'Reasons to Vote No to the Lisbon Treaty' - Kieran Allen
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