250,000 Workers Go On Strike

The country's largest unions have said they believe up to 250,000 workers have gone on strike today in response to the Government's plans to cut public sector pay.

Much of the State's public sector has shut down for the day with nurses, teachers, firefighters and other civil servants joining the industrial action against the proposed chop of €1.3 billion from the State pay bill.

Schools are also closed and there is widespread disruption to many services, although public transport is still operating.

A statement today from Siptu, the country's largest union, said the only viable strategy for economic recovery is through agreement with strong social dividend.

Speaking at the Annual Countess Markievicz Memorial Lecture last night, General President of the union Jack O'Connor said that only through agreement between the Government, unions and employers was a viable and sustainable economic recovery possible and that it must have a strong social dividend to be acceptable to workers.

“In one respect, we do agree with our opponents on the Right who articulate the interests of the 5% who own 40% of national wealth – confidence is the key”, he said. “But that will not be achieved in a country with our history and traditions by demonising people or heavy-handed tactics. That approach will meet with stiff resistance whether it is organised by the trade union movement or otherwise. Any assessment of the balance of forces would anticipate victory for the orthodox view.

"However, when all is done, there mightn’t be that much left to win."

After today's strike, unions will return to talks with the Government on long-term restructuring of the public service, and short-term measures to cut the State pay bill.


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