Article from the May 2004 edition, Socialist Voice
"We are building campaigning groups of activists within all unions to challenge the right wing union bureaucrats. We need new leaderships in the unions that will defend the interests of the members instead of doing the Government's and the employers' bidding."
What the unions should fight for
Every worker in the country will be jumping for joy at the news that their "social partners" the employers and the Government are going to give you a pay rise of less than 2% for the next 18 months. I bet you are all gobsmacked wondering what will you spend all that extra cash on!
By Stephen Boyd
Yes, it's that time again - the social partnership talks. Well, the Socialist Party has a list of demands it would like to put to the union leaders - the third component part of the social partnership triad.
Instead of sitting around a conference table engaging in cosy chats with IBEC and the Government the union leaders should be campaigning and battling on the following issues - as a start!
* A co-ordinated campaign of industrial action across our public transport system, linking up the workers in Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann, Aer Rianta and Aer Lingus to stop the privatisation of these companies.
* Set the date for a one day public transport strike to launch the battle against privatisation.
* Campaign to stop the destruction of An Post - stop the privatisation of the postal system - for a state subsidy to protect and enhance our national state owned postal service. No to the 1,500 redundancies being demanded by An Post management - pay the 3% now.
* Break from social partnership. For a campaign of free collective bargaining - for real wage rises to compensate workers for the increased stealth taxes and the erosion of their living standards in rip-off Ireland.
If the union leaders were to tackle the above issues it would be a start and only a start because the union leaders should be fighting the Government on other issues such as the crisis in the health service, in housing, to get rid of the bin charges to stop the water charges coming in etc, etc.
The problem of course is that the current batch of so-called union leaders will do absolutely nothing on any of these issues except pontificate, talk to the Government and do their best to get union members to accept the Government's wishes.
That's why the Socialist Party is committed to campaigning to transform our unions. We are building campaigning groups of activists within all unions to challenge the right wing union bureaucrats. We need new leaderships in the unions that will defend the interests of the members instead of doing the Government's and the employers' bidding.
A key to the transformation of our unions would be to increase democracy within the unions. All full time negotiating officials should be elected by the members on a regular basis and only receive the average workers' wage. That way we can have accountability over our officials and they will fight all the harder for their members if they are living on the same wages.
With a combined membership of over 500,000 the unions have potentially enormous power. With a new left leadership that power could be utilised to defeat all the Government's anti-working class attacks.
The unions must also play a crucial role in the establishment of a new mass socialist party to give every voter the opportunity to elect political representatives who could lead a combined fight by the unions and a mass socialist party that could really challenge the establishment parties and their rotten system.