The first "Croke Park Agreement" was signed in 2010. It imposed between 5 and 10 percent wage cuts on public sector workers, signed by the government and the trade unions. It was sharply criticised by the Socialist Party (CWI Ireland). Now the government tries to impose a new attack on the public sector workers, triggering new resistance.
The deal is based on working more for less pay – something that public sector workers and the economy cannot afford!
The €1 billion cuts which Croke Park II imposes will not create one single job and will do nothing to turn the economy around. In fact, according to the ESRI a €1 billion cut in public sector wages will result in up to 4,000 jobs being lost in the private sector.
Austerity has failed. Five years later and there is still mass unemployment and mass emigration with no sign that this will change for years to come – this deal will make things worse.
Croke Park II is rooted in an acceptance by sections of the trade union leaders that there is no alternative to austerity rather than defending public sector workers pay and conditions.
Public sector workers cannot afford to accept this deal. But it was inevitable that the government would come back for more after the concessions that were given in Croke Park I. The first time around they claimed make these concessions and we will restore the pay cuts! Have no doubt the government will come back at some point seeking more cuts, worse than even this deal – this is part of a race to the bottom in pay and conditions for public sector workers – now is the time to shout stop!
Set up workplace committees
The decision by the “four unions”, INMO, CPSU, UNITE and IMO to campaign to get a ‘No’ vote by all public sector workers is an important step forward and can play a decisive role in getting a majority of public sector workers to vote No.
Getting a No vote is the first step in defending public sector pay, jobs and services.
Don’t just campaign for your own union members to vote No. If appropriate, get together with others in your public sector workplaces / buildings / departments and campaign for a No vote amongst all of the union members across the workforce. Set up rank and file workplace committees linking activists across unions to campaign for a No vote – we also need to mobilise the vote to make sure the members who are angry about the deal make their opposition count.
An empty threat
A No vote will cause a political crisis for the government and Labour in particular. They have threatened to impose even more severe cuts in the event of a No vote – but this is an empty threat.
If Croke Park II is rejected then the government can be defeated. If Labour and Fine Gael then tried to implement the deal, the campaign must be stepped up – a sustained campaign of industrial action including one and two day public sector strikes in the aftermath of a No vote could defeat the government and be a major blow against all austerity and the Troika.
The struggle to defeat Croke Park II must also be linked to a general struggle against austerity and the likes of the Property Tax and Water Tax. The “four unions” who are leading the campaign for a No vote should become a permanent opposition within ICTU to the right wing leaders who are committed to backing Labour’s austerity agenda and anti-public sector attacks.
Even if there is a Yes vote, that should not be the end of the struggle. The “four unions” should organise a struggle against the deal and attempt to break the “control” of the trade union movement by the right wing leaders of the “bigger” unions.
Reclaim the unions
Thousands of trade union members will attend the “town hall meetings”. If they were all to get organised within their own unions into activist groups committed to changing the unions – then we could end the control of the right wing trade union officials who currently dominate ICTU and who agreed to this rotten deal. The unions could be transformed back into what they originally were meant to be – a fighting, campaigning force to improve the working conditions and the quality of life of their members – not to help big business and governments impose counter-reforms and pay cuts!