Resisting the Water Charges and Defending Our Right to Protest

We are residents of a number of communities in Dublin North East. Over the last number of months we have come together to resist the installation of water meters in our areas, and to oppose this unfair double taxation that the government calls water charges.

For most of us, this is the first time in our lives that we have engaged in any sort of protest and have only done so because we simply cannot take any more of this government’s austerity agenda. At all times we have sought to resist the installation of these meters in a peaceful, dignified and resolute manner.

We are therefore appalled at the recent developments in how An Garda Síochána have policed our protests, and with the blatant campaign to vilify and demonise us that the government and Gardai, supported by segments of the media, launched in recent days.

They have claimed that Gardai are routinely assaulted at protests, and that our movement has been infiltrated by a “sinister fringe” or by “dissident republicans”. We categorically reject these claims. In recent weeks we have been subjected to heavy handed and abusive policing by the Gardai. Men and women, protesting peacefully, have been pushed, pulled and punched by Gardai. To our knowledge not one of our fellow protesters has been convicted of assaulting a member of An Garda Síochána, and violent protest is not something we would endorse or tolerate.

With respect to the claim that our movement has been infiltrated by sinister elements, we reject this also. We are the people on the streets, day in, day out, peacefully resisting these meters; we are mothers, fathers, parents, pensioners, workers and unemployed – we are not sinister, dissident republicans.

In light of these developments, we are genuinely fearful that the Gardai, at the behest of the government, are preparing to become even more aggressive towards our protests and to eviscerate our right to protest.

We therefore call on all of the people of Ireland to come out and support us this coming Monday, 10 November 2014, in Dublin North East. We fear that GMC Sierra will attempt, with heavy Garda support, to enter our areas and install meters that we do not want. It is our intention to continue to resist this unjust tax in a peaceful and dignified manner, but we fear that the decision has been made to strip us of a meaningful right to protest.

Each and every one of us has resolved to resist this tax and these meters, we will continue to do so in a peaceful way, but if we are to succeed we need the support of other communities. If we all stand together, we can resist these charges, retain water as a public good and human right, and vindicate our right to protest.

Communities Against Water Charges
communitiesagainstwatercharges@gmail.com
09 November 2014

Real trade unionism in action – right2water

The type of class-conscious and politically active trade unionism that the Trade Union Left Forum has advocated at many of its meetings, and in its publications, is truly on display and being built in the Right2Water campaign.

The 1st November saw the second national protest against the water charges and the potential privatisation of what should be a guaranteed, universally available public resource. It is estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 people took part. This follows the 100,000 who marched on 11th October as well as the daily militant class struggle being fought in communities throughout the country, led in the main by self-organised working people.

The Right2Water campaign, led by five unions of both the private and the public sector (Mandate, Unite, CPSU, CWU, and OPATSI), has provided a broad national platform for a variety of groups, parties and communities and has maintained a progressive and impressive unity, despite attempts by some to break it.

This is now clearly and without doubt the biggest and most militant mobilisation of working people this country has seen for some time. As trade unionists it is wonderful to see unions take a leading role in the national campaign and beginning to build alliances within the movement but also with community groups and tens of thousands of workers who are not members of any union.

It is not pleasant to have to draw attention to the role of the leadership of the largest union in the country, SIPTU; but while it organises for justice in society and fairness at work, its absence from a campaign where unions are actively campaigning and building towards these goals is regrettable. Many thousands of SIPTU members are active in this campaign on the ground but by the leadership not endorsing Right2Water they are playing into the hands of a right-wing Government.

The intervention by the general president of SIPTU, Jack O’Connor, the day before up to 200,000 mainly working class people marched in support of the Right2Water campaign on 1st November, was particularly unhelpful. His criticism on Newstalk (the radio station owned by Denis O’Brien) of the Right2Water campaign and calling for “realistic” policies was regrettable. Calling for concessions, such as “water tax-credits,” to placate opposition to a tax that the trade union movement in general correctly labels as regressive, only assists those seeking to undermine the momentum of a working class mobilisation not seen since the PAYE marches of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

O’Connor’s call in the wake of the mass mobilisation of 1st November for a Referendum on public control of water supply is welcomed. However, it will only be effective if it is followed up by an acceptance that the ongoing water commodification process overseen by Irish Water must be stopped immediately.

A constitutional amendment to secure water as a publicly owned universal resource, paid for through general taxation is a proposal that the TULF will give full consideration to as this struggle develops. We must remember that water charges were beaten in the 1980s and mid-1990s; and if we are to make this a lasting victory, a constitutional amendment may be the demand to mobilise around.

The TULF take seriously also the impact the closure of Irish Water, which was formed as vehicle for privatisation and as such can have no constructive role to play in the supply of a public resource, will have on public service workers who have been transferred to its control and these workers should be secured in employment as part of public water provision in the future.

Denis O’Brien’s role in this growing political struggle is crucial. He owns the main water meter installation company and so is the not so hidden hand behind the offensive on working class communities who are resisting their imposition. He is also a major link between the Fine Gael party, and the present government, and the international neo-liberal agenda which seeks to attack democratic ownership wherever it is found. As the current struggle develops its clear class nature will see an intensification of the focus on O’Brien and his cohorts.

Members of Unions not involved in the Right2Water campaign must begin to challenge their own unions to become involved and strengthening the campaign and the resistance movement. On this basis the TULF will shortly launch a petition for union members to sign to encourage those unions not involved in the right2water campaign to join it and strengthen this working class mobilisation.

The combined strength of progressive unions and local communities, playing a heroic role facing constant harassment and brutality from the Gardaí, has the potential to transform this country. This alliance is crucial, and must be built on. Unity must be maintained. Political education and demands must be expanded, within unions and communities, to secure water as a resource, to win this once and for all, and to strengthen our class in other areas of struggle.

A new kind of trade unionism emerging

A new kind of trade unionism is emerging and consolidating itself within the right2water campaign, led by Mandate and Unite and supported by OPATSI, the CPSU, and the CWU. These unions are bringing the broader social and economic interests of their members to the fore and committing resources, time and effort to support mobilisation not only of members, but also the working class and communities more generally.

By viewing their members as workers (as opposed to people paying a subscription for work-place representation services) these unions are placing the workers’ immediate social demands alongside, and equal to, their immediate work-place concerns. This is crucial if the trade union movement is to really represent its members and to recover its power and leverage in society. Wage increases alone will not improve the lot of workers while the political economy of the country is being restructured from one made up of citizens to one of customers in a toll-booth economic and political structure.

The TULF on many occasions has suggested that the trade union movement has a unique position in Ireland in having the resources and channels of communication to support the mobilisation of working people in a way that no left party can. And now it seems that some unions are realising this potential, which is both necessary and welcome.

The right2water alliance is a genuine alliance of union, political and community groups, making a clear demand and statement, “calling for the Government to recognise and legislate for access to water as a human right. We are demanding the Government abolish the planned introduction of water charges.”

As well as the five unions mentioned, community groups and parties have signed up to the campaign. Some 40,000 people have signed a petition calling for the scrapping of the water charges, close to 100,000 marched at the demonstration on 11 October, and more local actions are planned for 1 November.

The right2water campaign is not dictating tactics to communities or individuals but is building and growing a broad campaign of groups and people based on the principle of water as a human right and as a publicly owned utility and resource. Some on the left have attacked the campaign for not demanding non-payment; but at this moment building the biggest, broadest alliance against water charges and privatisation is the priority. A turn towards direct non-payment may be necessary in the future, but right now the campaign’s strength is in growing and building the alliance rather than splintering over tactical matters.

The fact that trade unions, rather than left parties, are now playing the central role makes this campaign different and arguably is what has made it so hugely successful, as demonstrated by the march on Saturday the 11th.

With working-class communities showing militant resistance on the ground, often being physically bullied and assaulted by a police force violently supporting the right of capital, this campaign has an opportunity like none before it to be a tipping-point in the resistance against austerity and the diktats of capital.

While tactics will need to advance and develop as the campaign grows, so too will the politicisation process be required to intensify. Opposing water charges—a noble effort—is one thing, but the real struggle needed and the one that has transformative potential is the struggle to hold a vital natural resource in public ownership and under democratic control, even in the limited form of democracy that is now allowed, against the desires of the EU, the United States, and the Irish corporate elite.

If this is to be a tipping-point, the real enemy needs to be identified; and this is not the corruptly appointed Irish Water and its hacks but the Irish and EU political and corporate elite and their political-economic system.

There is much to be hopeful and optimistic about for the first time in a long while, and those unions leading the charge should be applauded and supported.

ICTU on TTIP

Trade unionists must take a principled position opposing the TTIP between the US and EU. It is an anti-democratic treaty that will enhance corporate power, reduce regulations, provide for further privatisation and intensify the ongoing race to the bottom in workers rights, wages and protections.

The ICTU has produced an overview document available at http://www.ictu.ie/publications/fulllist/congress-sub-to-public-consultation-on-modalities-for-investment-protection-and-isds-in-ttip/ and their initial overview is below. While this is welcome trade unions need to coordinate a campaign with environmental groups, 3rd world justice groups and communities to mount a serious opposition. TULF activists are now working with other groups to establish this. We call on ICTU to join this effort.

ICTU:

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), is a proposed trade deal between the US and the EU. It is currently the subject of intense negotiations and given the scale of the two economies, which together account for more than 50 percent of world GDP and one-third of global trade flows, the sheer magnitude of the potential deal means there is a lot at stake. The stated aim of TTIP is to provide a boost to the EU economy, and create jobs for citizens. There are numerous economic forecasts of the benefits of the deal however these forecasts may be exaggerated.

However the TTIP is about far more than trade. The agreement under discussion will tie governments’ hands in many areas that are only loosely related to trade. It does this in six ways

1) TTIP aims to remove or reduce tariff barriers but not just taxes on good on goods and service, instead the main focus of TTIP is removing or reducing ‘non tax barriers’ (NTBs) such as regulation. This means, to be successful, regulations with regard to chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food environmental protection, patent protection for drugs, local government purchasing, public services and labour rights must be removed or reduced under TTIP.

2) Where ‘NTBs’ cannot be removed or reduced TTIP plans to harmonise the regulatory standards, the plan is to accomplish this by means of mutual recognition of standards. There is a concern that higher regulatory standards will be undermined by mutual recognition of the lower standard, for example the EU uses the ‘precautionary principle’ that requires where proof that new products causes no harm before it can be marketed or used in the workplace, there are no such safeguards in the US.

3) TTIP aims to further liberalise the trade in services, including public services. It is not clear what public services will be included and whether any public services will be ruled out of the TTIP provisions.

4) A central concern about TTIP is the threat to democracy, labour rights and public services posed by additional ‘investor protections’ these allow investors to challenge state actions which they perceive as ‘expropriation’ and’ indirect expropriation’, i.e. threatening their investment.

5) Investor protections do not automatically prevent the EU or a Member State from adopting laws in the future, nor will it necessarily mean that States have to pay compensation to investors whenever doing so. However, the results of companies being able to sue for compensation and the resulting cost to the exchequer are likely to have a significant chill factor resulting preventing any new regulatory initiative and effectively preventing the reversal of privatisations.

6) Companies who launch a claim under the enhanced investor protections do so not in courts of law but in secret and unaccountable private arbitration known as ‘ISDS’ Investor State Dispute Service. Usually a three person tribunal comprised not of judges but lawyers who specialise in company law. Their decisions are final and binding. There are no matching rights or mechanisms for citizens, workers or communities harmed or abused by investors‘ projects and products.

The Irish Congress Trade Unions is not alone in raising concerns, the trade unions throughout the EU and US have called for improvements to TTIP with AFL-CIP President Trumka stating that ‘Trade policy for the privileged few must end. TTIP must work for the people, or it won’t work at all. ” and ETUC General Secretary, Bernadette Ségol, stating that “European and American trade unionists are united in supporting a free trade deal between the EU and US only if it promotes workers’ rights, generates quality jobs, upholds public services and procurement, democratic decision making and international conventions.”

European Commission rejects a citizens’ petition against the EU-US trade deal (TTIP)

The European Commission has today rejected a proposal from an alliance of European campaigners to hold a ‘European Citizens’ Initiative’ against the EU-US and EU-Canada trade deals (known as TTIP and CETA). This decision prevents citizens from forcing the Commission to review its policy on the deals and to hold a hearing in the European parliament.

Negotiations on TTIP and CETA deal have provoked strong opposition across Europe, the US and Canada. Campaigners fear these treaties will give unprecedented power to multinational corporations, risking privatisation of public services and dilution of environmental standards and workers’ rights. To express this opposition, over 200 trade unions, social justice campaigns, human rights groups and consumer watchdogs applied for a European Citizens’ Initiative to force a re-think on the deals.

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) was created to give European citizens formal petitioning rights over an often unaccountable decision-making process. Citizens who collect one million petition signatures from 7 or more EU states can force the Commission to formally respond to their request and hold a public hearing in the European parliament.

Campaign groups the World Development Movement and War on Want accused the Commission of stifling citizens’ voices on TTIP and CETA.

John Hilary, director of War on Want said: “This is an outrageous decision by the European Commission. These trade deals are already facing unprecedented opposition for their secrecy and unaccountability, but now we are denied even the right to petition our own EU leaders. An unelected executive, facing growing vocal opposition, has put his hands over its ears. ”

Nick Dearden, director of the World Development Movement said: “Nothing could more clearly show that these trade deals are a disaster for democracy on our continent. The European Union wants to stich this deal together behind closed doors, because if it lets citizens anywhere near it, it won’t be able to control the opposition. But the people of Europe will not have this corporate power grab imposed on them – we will fight against this decision, and we will defeat these trade deals.”

British Unions likely to oppose TTIP

Three of the UK’s biggest unions have tabled motions at the Trade Union Congress in Liverpool outlining their opposition to the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), a huge trade deal being negotiated behind closed doors at the European commission between EU bureaucrats and delegates from the US.

Critics say the TTIP threatens to make the outsourcing of health services in Britain permanent by allowing US multinationals, or any firm with American investors, to sue any future UK government if it attempts to take privatised health services back into public ownership, jeopardising their profits. Critics say it will also water down environmental standards and banking regulations.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, one of the unions that have tabled motions, called on David Cameron to use his veto to ensure the NHS is not included in the deal.

“It is time he put the people’s concerns above the interests of a handful of US companies and Wall Street investors which want to profit from our NHS. The movement against including our NHS in this trade deal is growing and the Tories simply cannot afford to ignore it.”

Efforts by the trade union movement to raise awareness of the potential consequences of the trade deal have gathered pace across Europe in recent weeks, with a coalition of environmentalists, trade unions and leftwing parties voicing their opposition.

Last week almost 10,000 people took part in more than 600 events in the UK organised by campaign group 38 degrees to leaflet and talk to people about the potential consequences of the deal. And 170,000 people have signed a petition calling on the UK to either fix or scrap TTIP.

McCluskey said: “The government and bureaucrats from Brussels thought that they could tie this deal up behind closed doors without any fuss, but ordinary people who care about the NHS recognise this danger and are making their opposition clear.”

Last week the government moved to rebut accusations that the deal was being driven by the interests of big transnational companies which variously want to deregulate markets, make NHS privatisation irreversible, and water down regulations on food standards and banking.

Trade minister Lord Livingston argued that the TTIP could add as much as £10bn to the UK economy a year. He said consumers stood to gain from more choice and cheaper goods, workers would benefit from higher wages as manufacturing makes gains and small companies would be able to break into export markets.

He added that the deal, which seeks to cut remaining trade tariffs and simplify regulatory rules, will not change anything for the NHS. “The NHS and how it chooses to operate will not be impacted by TTIP.”

But Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said the NHS must be exempted from a deal which he said threatened the fabric of a publicly run, free-at-the-point-of-use NHS.

Burnham said: “In the EU-US trade treaty, we want designation for healthcare so that we can exempt it from contract law, from competition law. The market is not the answer to 21st century healthcare. The demands of 21st century care require integration; markets deliver fragmentation.”

Taken from

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/09/ttip-biggest-threat-democracy-youve-never-heard

TTIP must be stopped – Unite the Union

Welcoming the launch of a People’s Movement information booklet on the proposed EU – US ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’ (TTIP), Unite Regional Secretary jimmy Kelly today (Sunday September 7th) said that the job creation claims advanced by the treaty’s proponents do not stack up, and he warned that workers’ and citizens’ rights would take a backseat to corporate interests.

“It’s no wonder that there is a veil of secrecy over this treaty:  its advocates, both in the US and in the EU, know that citizens would not tolerate its proposed provisions.

“We all remember when the Government asked us to vote ‘YES for jobs’ to the Lisbon Treaty.  And we know how that ended.  TTIP has been billed by the European Commission as the ‘cheapest stimulus package imaginable’ -but the claims do not stack up.

“Let us be very clear:  There is no evidence that TTIP will create the jobs we need.  But what it may do is move jobs around – between sectors, and from countries with high labour and environmental standards to countries with low standards.  In this zero sum game, jobs will be shifted to locations guaranteeing the highest profit and the least regulatory inconvenience to corporations.  Rather than creating new jobs, there will be competition for the same jobs – generating a race to the bottom in which all are losers.

“The European Commission’s own impact assessment report acknowledges that TTIP would entail prolonged stagnation for European workers. It is estimated that up to 1.3 million workers could lose their jobs as a result of TTIP-generated jobs displacement, and the quality of any replacement jobs is likely to be lower.

“The German Hans Boeckler Foundation has looked at the various job projections and concluded that any overall job gains would be, to use their term, ‘negligible’.

“And the standard of existing employment could be compromised: workers may face new threats, since TTIP may enable corporations to challenge national policies designed to protect workers – policies which reduce their capacity to turn a profit.  So, while profits are protected and enhanced, the wages and consumer demand needed to generate growth will actually be dampened.

“In addition, TTIP is likely to incorporate Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms.  ISDS mechanisms are a one-way street – a street in which corporations have right of way, while workers and citizens must give way.  Using these mechanisms, corporations may be able to sue states for policies which affect their profits – but neither states, not citizens, nor trade unions, can sue corporations for policies which impact on local communities, or on workers’ rights, or on the environment.

“TTIP poses a clear and present danger to jobs, to workers, to the environment, to the Global South – and to democracy in Europe and in Ireland.  It must be stopped”, Jimmy Kelly concluded.

TULF on TTIP

A TULF Fact Sheet on TTIP is available on this website below is a brief summary of the issues involved.

The TTIP are a set of negotiations between European capital and American capital (which willingly agree on most things) in response to the shift in growth from the north to the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). Real growth has stagnated for decades in both continents, giving rise to the dominance of financial speculation and a shadow banking system, and this is a further attempt to create growth at the expense of people and our environment.

It seeks to increase profitability for big business in the United States and Europe at the expense of workers and their rights, of the public and the services they rely upon, and of the environment and food safety. It is being carried out by unelected technocrats who held private meetings with big business in advance and, whether on the European side or American side of the negotiations, largely agree on what needs to happen.

It would further cement liberalisation and privatisation and open up new areas for private exploitation. It would greatly restrict “public good” clauses in public procurement contracts. It would confer new rights on corporations, allowing them to sue sovereign states for policies that negatively affect their profits, and to have their case heard in unaccountable courts.

It would do away with some of the modest financial reforms that were introduced in response to the economic crisis, creating more instability, risk and speculation in the economy, and would result in significant loss of jobs in EU countries.

It is vital that unions oppose these negotiations. It will be tempting to merely concentrate efforts on the most offensive ISDS part; but all areas that negatively affect workers, the public and democracy must equally be opposed.

These negotiations are being carried out in secret, with very little comment or analysis by the media. Therefore the trade union movement must start with a public awareness campaign both with members and with workers more generally.

If we wish to secure public services and to halt privatisation and outsourcing we must fight to prevent TTIP being agreed.

The TULF encourages workers to sign this petition, calling for such a campaign to be led by the ICTU:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/The_Irish_Congress_of_Trade_Unions_Begin_a_public_awareness_campaign_and_call_for_the_scrapping_of_TTIP/?ezHxhib

Greyhound dispute: your assistance is needed!

You will be aware of the bitter, protracted and ongoing lockout of 78 trade union members by Greyhound Recycling and Recovery. This dispute, which was provoked by the west Dublin based employer locking out workers who refused to accept a pay cut of up to 35%, will shortly enter its third month.

From the beginning of this lockout strikebreakers have been employed by Greyhound to continue waste collections. The use of these strikebreakers has provoked outrage in many working class communities throughout Dublin.

This has resulted in community actions being taken where local activists and elected representatives have halted Greyhound trucks or walked in front of them in order to delay their progress. No person involved in these community actions has been arrested. These actions are being conducted in a peaceful manner and amount to communities exercising their right to protest.

The Greyhound owners, Michael and Brian Buckley, have now begun legal proceedings against activists taking part in these community protests. They have applied to the High Court seeking an injunction not only against named individuals but to prevent any future effective protests against the strikebreakers by local communities.

The Trade Union Left Forum believes that this issue is one that should concern all trade unionists as it amounts to a serious attack on the right to engage in peaceful protest. In light of this the TULF is issuing a call to concerned trade unionists to organise effective support for community activists and elected representatives who wish to mount a legal defence against the Buckley Brothers.

Initially you are being asked to assist by:

  1. Informing the TULF of any solicitors or other legal professionals who may be willing to assist defendants for no charge or a reduced fee. This is an urgent matter as the judge has requested that sworn affidavits are presented to the court by Tuesday with the case going ahead on Thursday.
  2. Considering what financial support you may be willing to provide to a Community Actions Defence Fund that the TULF is considering establishing to support trade union activists threatened by these legal actions.

In solidarity,

The TULF Steering Committee

An independent political programme for the trade union movement and for workers

Where is the ambition?

Jack O’Connor has said on a number of occasions that the “left” lacks ambition and courage. This is certainly true of the official trade union movement. It lacks ambition, courage, and vision. The movement has failed to articulate its own vision of society and how we might get there. It has failed to present consistently to its members and to workers generally the necessary short-term reforms and the medium to long-term transitional policies that will bring about socialism—a society by, for and of working people.

And why is that? Many reasons, including the legacy of “partnership,” the “professionalisation” of the movement, the destruction of political education, the general depoliticisation of working people, the attitude of the media, confusion over the nature of the European Union, and more.

Many of these problems will not be surmounted overnight; but one reason that stands out and that can be successfully challenged is the fact that the movement has essentially outsourced political policy to the Labour Party, and is reluctant to promote and campaign on a political programme outside of what the Labour Party will allow—and this despite the fact that the ICTU is allegedly politically neutral, and only a couple of unions are actually affiliated to the Labour Party.

More than a hundred years ago the trade union movement decided it needed to fight on the political field as well as the industrial, and so it established the Labour Party as the political wing of the movement. The Labour Party was to represent the industrial organisation of the working class in the political structures of the day; and people like Tom Johnson—trade unionist, Labour Party leader, and main author of the Democratic Programme—did so. Now, however, the relationship has been reversed and the Labour Party is determining political policy, and unions have shied away from any independent vision or confrontation with Labour. The tail is clearly wagging the dog.

A changed political landscape

There is no doubt the political landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years. Fianna Fáil has lost the support it had among sections of the working class. The Labour Party has lost its working-class base in cities and towns. An extremely right-wing ideological Fine Gael is the biggest party in the state electorally. And Sinn Féin has grown apace, capturing lost Fianna Fáil and Labour Party working-class support and middle-class frustrations.

By far the most striking trend, however (and whether this will be so in the long term remains to be seen) is the electoral success of independents—largely progressive—and small left-wing parties. Whether we think the rise of independent TDs and councillors is good or not for working people is one thing, but there is no doubt it is a trend and will be a factor in the next election.

But despite this massive change in electoral politics it is also clear that class rule remains as strong as ever, if not stronger. Successive governments of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, and of Fine Gael and Labour supported by the EU, ECB and IMF, have been able to impose, against popular wishes, a host of regressive neo-liberal reforms, strengthening the control capital has here and strengthening the dependence of our economy and state on moneylenders and foreign capital. They have been able to railroad through EU treaties against the voted mandate of the people, and have brazenly broken numerous electoral promises. The democratic structures of the state are openly laughed about, and this is reflected in the general anti-establishment position taken by our class in voting against Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party or not voting at all.

The trade union movement has the potential, is arguably the only movement capable, of pulling progressive forces together in a meaningful way to harness the anti-establishment position of working people and create a positive, energetic movement. To achieve this it must work to realise its potential and right now it is some way off it. We are not part of a movement. Unions are not working to build a movement. Sectionalism and short term servicing remains the priority and so long as this continues, potential will be all we have.

Vitalising the movement, organising new workers and mobilising for an independent political programme must go hand in hand.

Why an independent political programme?

It is time the trade union movement recognised and acted on its unique position. It is the organised working class. It is 600,000 workers throughout Ireland. It has the members, the resources, the campaigning capacity and ultimately the potential industrial strength to change this country for the better for working people—but only if it can win the hearts and minds of its members to a political programme that addresses the immediate concerns of our class and presents a vision and long-term agenda for transforming fundamentally the structures in this country.

This is our cause. Each one of us as a trade union activist must begin to make this demand and to challenge our unions to this cause. The Trade Union Left Forum will provide space for developing the ideas and programme; but fundamentally we, as trade unionists, must bring the demand for an independent political programme into each of our unions.

Political parties become stronger or weaker, rise and fall, but the trade union movement has grown and existed for more than a hundred years. We need our own independent political programme and to mobilise our members around it.

Parties and Independents who agree with the programme or parts of it can sign up to it and pledge their support. The movement then, not tied to any one party or to a government, is free to campaign and pursue its agenda with its supporters in the Dáil, in the Seanad, and in local councils.

The next election is likely to return an even more diverse result in parties and independents. The trade union movement needs to put itself in the strongest position possible to influence politically for our class. This will not be achieved if it is tied, whether formally or informally, to the Labour Party. A break is needed, and the movement needs the ambition and the courage to do this.

The Labour Party will be treated like other progressive parties or independents. It will be able to support the union programme, and in return the movement will supports those candidates. But so too will Sinn Féin, independents and other left-wing parties, all on an equal basis. It will be a case of them signing up to our programme in return for our support.

How do we achieve this?

Over the next few months the TULF will host a number of workshops, inviting trade union activists and those close to the movement to contribute to the development of an independent political programme for the movement.

The TULF will promote the need for this programme and the thinking to be adopted by the movement generally but in the context of an important general election on the horizon.

You can be part of this by sharing this article as a start but also by attending these workshops and generally participating in TULF initiatives as the campaign develops.