Last weekend’s NEC was actually held over two days, and apart from receiving usual reports from committees and officials, we agreed NEC motions for next year’s delegate meeting in April; received a thorough report from John McDonnell MP secretary to the NUJ parliamentary group on their activities since the group was set up in August; and received a report from Zimbabwe Union of Journalists General Secretary, Foster Dongozi, who is visiting the UK and Ireland. I’ll cover these in subsequent blogs. But the early session was dominated by events in Ireland.Early in the meeting on Friday we had a report from the Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley on the trade union campaign against government’s disastrous economic policies. He said that in the republic, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) had been at the forefront of organising a demonstration on the next day (27 November) against the EU/IMF led austerity measures to bail out the banks and refinance the economy. The package also involved an austerity budget planned for 7 December, which was likely to see cuts in the minimum wage (12%), further cuts in social welfare, a tax hike and the loss of up to 25,000 public sector jobs. He also reported that the budget would have significant implications for RTE, Ireland’s national radio and TV broadcaster. The state currently paid 55 million Euros to the public service broadcaster from the department of social protection for licence fees for pensioners and there was a strong possibility that this would be reduced with implications for programming and jobs (a similar move was mooted by the UK coalition in its so called discussions with the BBC last month – but never acted on – the management having capitulated to the rest of their demands including a freeze on the licence fee until 2016).
The ITUC is leading a strong campaign (they turned out up to 100,000 on the demo the next day) against the cuts and bail out, which is hardly surprising as there have already been five budgets or ‘emergency measures’ since the end of 2008. Yet the government and the EU/IMF really believe that by further depressing incomes and spending and increasing unemployment will lead to recovery. It has not worked before and will not now and the resistance is growing.
Speaking at the NEC, NUJ President Pete Murray said the concerns of NUJ members were the same as those of every other worker in Ireland. Jobs were under threat, pensions were being devalued and the most vulnerable in Irish society were being asked to pay the high price for problems which were not of their making. The NEC went on to unanimously endorse the ITUC’s ‘Better Way’ campaign against the cuts.
You may be interested in reading the special ICTU publication – The People’s Voice (copies were distributed at the NEC):
and although the newspaper has been somewhat overtaken by events…the news is even worse since the weekend, the UK TUC could learn a thing or two from this publication!