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Democrat - August-September 2009 (Number 115)

Irish Unite trade union calls for
No! vote for Lisbon II referendum

Unite, the second largest trade union in Ireland has urged its 60,000 members to vote No! in the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

   Unite, an Anglo-Irish union, said it was campaigning against the EU reform deal because of concerns over workers’ rights.

   Jimmy Kelly, the union’s regional secretary, said the Government failed to get a legal guarantee on the right to organise and strike.

   “Instead we got a ’solemn declaration’ that is worthless given the way in which the European courts have interpreted workers’ rights as being subservient to those of business,” he said.

   Unite which campaigned for a No! vote on last year’s treaty referendum, said legal guarantees have been granted on tax, moral concerns and the number of Irish EU commissioners but not on fundamental workers’ rights.

   “Irish workers are alone in Europe as having no legal right to representation by a union,” said Mr Kelly.

   “Irish workers are alone in Europe as having no provision for pension protection.
   “Irish workers are alone in Europe as the only ones whose right to fair pay and employment security are considered by their government as obstacles to economic recovery.”

   “In the area of workers’ rights however, there was a singular failure to secure the clause that would prevent social dumping and second class treatment of workers.

   “For that reason we are recommending to all of our members that they should reject Lisbon once again, and we are encouraging fellow trade union members to do likewise.”

   This means that the issue of employee protections is shaping up to be one of the key debates in the campaign.

   Mr Kelly said Unite, Ireland’s second largest union, fully supported the vital role which Europe plays in the everyday lives of Irish citizens. But he insisted the second referendum was not about Ireland’s place in the EU.

   The union, which opposed the treaty during the last referendum as well, has also offered its building for use by the Vote No! to Lisbon campaign, headed by the Socialist Party of Dublin MEP Joe Higgins and backed by Sinn Fein, the republican party.

   Other organisations and movements taking part in the No! to Lisbon Treaty camp include the Peoples’ Movement and Peace and Neutrality Alliance.

   Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald speaking at their No! campaign launch said the electorate is being asked to vote once again on the very same treaty that they rejected last year. She accused the Government of wasting the mandate that it was given last year to secure a better treaty for Ireland. She said guarantees secured by the Government do not alter the text of the treaty in any way or change the impact it will have on Ireland.

   Ms McDonald said, “Almost 1,000,000 people, or 53% of the electorate rejected the Lisbon Treaty on June 12th 2008. People voted for a better deal for Ireland and Europe. The Government wasted that mandate.

   Peoples’ Movement leader Patricia McKenna and former MEP said “The Lisbon Treaty is 9 years old and out of date it enshrines the failed economic policies that led to the current global recession”. The cosy circle of politicians, bankers and developers who caused the economic crisis now expect us to pay for their failures. They threaten worse economic times if we reject the Treaty again. But Lisbon would worsen the economic situation, not improve it.

   We in Britain can help, without telling how the Irish should vote. We have to make clear the Irish are not alone and  objections can be voiced publicly and by letter to the Commision offices in London and elsewhere. Other actions are also possible and these should be intimated to the Irish press and other media.

   There are websites of the various organisations in Ireland to keep readers in touch with the No! campaign:

Peoples' Movement
Peace and Neutrality Alliance of Ireland
National Platform of Ireland - information and analysis