SIPTU's Jack O'Connor calls for workers to unite to fight attacks on pay and services
Speaking at an event to mark the unveiling of a portrait of Trade Union Leader James Connolly in Belfast City Council this evening SIPTU General President Jack O’Connor called on workers to unite to fight attacks on pay and services.
Thanking Mayor Niall O’Donnghaile and the City Council, he described the initiative as “acknowledging the role of the majority – i.e. Working people, in the history and civic life of the City”. He said that while his union was founded in Dublin as it ITGWU in 1909 it was conceived in the great Belfast Dock Strike of 1907 when workers of all traditions across the city united to assert their rights.
He went on to cite the parallels between the circumstances at the end of the 19th and early 20th century to those prevailing today. The economic collapse which precipitated the great London Dock Strike of 1889 and the wave of militancy among workers across Western Europe followed a global expansion of capital not unlike the 30 years before the implosion of 2008. This has legitimised a new assault on pay, which parallels the reaction of capital to the collapse that occurred in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Once again it is being done in the name of competitiveness. Once again we are learning that whatever differences exist between those at the top of society in different countries, they are unanimous when it comes to deciding on who is going to bear the lion’s share of the burden for the collapse of capitalism – working people as always. “The austerity programme being promoted across Europe is mirrored by the approach of the UK government, which will jeopardise 40,000 jobs in this jurisdiction over the next four years.
“The outlook for working people, which only a few short years ago envisaged jobs and prosperity for the young, and reasonable pensions for the elderly increasingly begins to mirror that of an earlier, depressing era. Mass unemployment once again stalks the landscape. Casualisation, now in the form of agency working, mirrors the culture of the gangmaster, rendering the young subject to the volatilities of precarious working without rights. The combination of public service cuts and collapsing private pension incomes are once again reducing the elderly to a status approaching penury.
“It’s time to apply the other lessons of history once again – working people must stand together and support each other. Never have we faced a more urgent need to renew our commitment to the ideals of Connolly and Larkin and to their concept of building a fighting trade union movement capable of confronting the architects of austerity on the economic, social and political fronts.