Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Public Servants take to the Picket Lines

Around a quarter of a million workers took to picket lines across the Twenty-Six Counties today [Tuesday] as public sector staff struggle to protect their pay and conditions.
Nurses, teachers, firefighters, civil servants and other workers all joined the stoppage in protest against plans to cut €1.3 billion from the public pay bill in the state.

A decision on a second stage of industrial action is expected to be announced by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions soon, which could involve a rolling series of regional stoppages or a further, state-wide 24-hour strike.

Firefighters were the first to go on strike at midnight, while hundreds of primary school teachers marched to the Twenty-Six County Department of Education headquarters at Marlborough Teachers in DublinStreet in Dublin later in the morning.

éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson stated the party’s support for the massive strike.

“The public sector staff who are today on picket lines around the Twenty-Six Counties deserve the support of every other working person,” he said.

“Ordinary workers should not be expected to take pay cuts while bankers and business men and women are allowed to ring fence their extortionate profits.

“The inequalities in Irish society are growing not decreasing – the disparity in income between the rich and the rest of us has continued to rise over the last 20 years. Why is it then that those who benefited the least from the recent economic boom are those who are expected to pay for the bust?”

Hospital workers in CorkLeeson also hit out at the business organisations who have been attempting to sow discord between public and private sector workers in recent days.

Employers groups such as IBEC and the ISME have labeled today’s strike as “disgraceful”, “unacceptable” and “selfish”, while urging the Dublin government “not to concede an inch” to public sector workers.

Leeson said: “This strike is not only about protecting the pay and conditions of those who work in the public sector. It is about defending the public services that we all rely on. It is about getting those who are behind this economic crisis to shoulder their responsibility for it.

“It is only logical that the leaders of the business class will attempt to foster resentment among private sector workers against the public service staff taking strike action today. But, if the business class and the right-wing politicians get their way, it won’t be their families waiting in ever longer queues in public hospitals or their children getting taught in ever more dilapidated public schools – it will be the families and children of both public and private sector workers who will have to endure these conditions.

“Now is the time for solidarity among all working people – that is the only way that the attacks on our living standards can be thwarted.”

Sligo éirígí activist Gerry Casey also expressed his support for the industrial action. He said that such resistance by workers was absolutely necessary.

Casey said: "The planned cutbacks in health and education, as well as in workers pay and social welfare rates, if implemented will have a disastrous effect on working class communities and the provision of essential public services for decades to come."

He added: "Poverty will increase significantly, as will poverty related illnesses and deaths. This is unacceptable. Today's 24-hour stoppage was absolutely necessary and further such resistance is essential in the coming days and weeks ahead."

Meanwhile, Tír Chonaill éirígí spokesperson Micheál Cholm MacGiolla Easbuig has called on the Trade Union leadership to intensify the campaign against the cuts in the weeks ahead. He said more determined actions would be needed if the planned cutbacks are to be defeated

He was speaking after visiting a number of picket lines throughout West Donegal to show solidarity with the striking workers.

MacGiolla Easbuig said: "The workers involved in today's industrial action are to be commended for their actions. Today's strike was necessary as part of the campaign to defeat government plans to impose further cutbacks in the upcoming budget."

He added: "However, this administration are intent on forcing low paid workers and welfare recipients to carry the burden in terms of cutbacks and today's action by itself will not be enough to prevent that. Over the coming weeks, the Trade Union leadership must stand firm against any attempt to force them to compromise. They must intensify the campaign, on the streets and in the workplace, with public demonstrations and national strikes."

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