Day 3 ICTU conference July 2013
“History will look back on this being a defining conference for the trade union movement” David Begg told us at the end of this session. A session that saw a further 14 motions pass almost unanimously, including 2 emergency ones. I don’t think that is the history defining moment the General Secretary of congress meant. Nope, it is the motion that allows ICTU to look at the way the trade union movement is organised. This could see a streamlining in the number of unions in this country but it still needs us to address the issues facing working (and increasing numbers of unemployed) people.
Derek Keenan from ICTU youth committee explained that the “demographic time mob is exploding as young people are not becoming members. Sections of youth identify more with Michael o’Leary than 1913. The era of Social Partnership has allowed our movement to become self serving. the movement needs to show a radical way. It is imperative that we become relevant to young workers.”
Today we heard that the extent of casualisation in the workforce is unsettling. It’s not just in areas like retail. Where people may get a minimum wage but don’t work enough hours to earn a living wage. The teaching profession sees “employers lying for loopholes to avoid contracts” so the TUI told us. Teachers are working on zero hours contracts, they are experiencing bullying in the workplace and it suddenly seems a different profession. IBOA general secretary Larry Broderick spoke eloquently on the banking profession. It seems that the banks are out for three things, Larry told us.
1/ Screw customers
2/ screw staff
3/ screw the country.
Recent calls for a banking enquiry ring hollow for the IBOA as they have Ben calling for it for years.
There were more calls for us to “Apportion blame for what has happened to those responsible. Develop the toolkit through NERI.” Eoin Ronayne from CPSU told us. “If Govt aren’t listening then we need to look at how we are doing business.
David Evans, president of TUC in Wales, paired a similar story, only the Welsh assembly aren’t looking to privatise services. “People are struggling and day to day communities see this crisis worsen.
And then we came to what could have been the elephant in the room. FEMPI or Financial Emergency Measures Provision Act . Jimmy kelly from unite explained “govt agrees here is a war going on and this is an opportunity to unite the organisation” Eoin Ronayne exclaimed “this is nota public sector issue. It is incumbent on the movement to see the repeal of this legislation. What is next?” Dave Hughes from INMO was similar speaking about precedent. “Every negotiation will have this threat”. And so it continued, speaker after speaker bemoaning the fact that govt legislated and this needs to be repealed. “This is akin to blackmail” said Pat King of ASTI. Even unions who voted yes to croke park 2 were in agreement. PSEU’s Tom Geraghty was windering why this was needed as unions will be in Haddington Road, however “the sort of change we will be seeking is through sheer hard work of trade union leadership”
The issue of Private v Public Sector arose and words were used to deal with it. One only hopes that “best strategy is the be united under one agreement” or when an injury to a “shop worker is akin to an injury to a nurse is akin to an injury to a building worker is akin to a teacher” will really be the case when we get back to the reality of dealing with our employers.
Conference continued in the vein of suggesting a united trade union movement in the future. Many questions were raised, a lot of discussion around how to get people involved. The best answer is to try and involve them. Engage with the membership and they will feel you are relevant, be involved in communities, let people see that this organisation representing 800,000 people (and their families) is a real social movement. We can become the media, start with blogs and twitter and social media. Work into union mags, work towards a newspaper, create your own tv.
As NIPSA put it so much better than me “There is still an echo of Jim Larkin in our movement and still some fight. We are facing a significant fight. We have to change direction and not accept any more attacks”