What happened the opposition to sell-off?

The sale of the State’s remaining stake in Aer Lingus marks the low point, so far, in the labour movement’s capitulation to neo-liberalism and move away from even a semblance of social-democratic politics, never mind socialism.

Although only 25.1% of the once publically-owned national airline remained in State hands until yesterday’s Dáil vote to sell it to the international conglomerate IAG, it did still maintain a degree a democratic influence on the key transport company.

The selloff of this profitable state asset has been accompanied by far-fetched tales. These include the claim that Dublin Airport, based on an island with direct land transport links to a hinterland with a population of 4.5 million people, will be developed as a ‘hub’ by IAG in preference to airports located in the South East of England – which has a hinterland extending from the UK to continental Europe by rail.

However, the far-fetched tale that will concern workers the most is that ‘guarantees’ hastily included in letters from management, in the soon to be defunct Aer Lingus head office, carry any weight when it comes to protecting jobs and conditions from a company with a long track record of asset striping.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect, for principled trade unionists, of the rushed fire sale of this public asset is the connivance of the Labour Party and possibly senior members of our movement in attempting to hide the move from democratic inspection.

At the Labour Party conference in March, a motion that was proposed by a group of TDs, was passed, claiming they would oppose any sale of Aer Lingus until guarantees related to the national interest in terms of maintained air transport links and guarantees for workers were met.

In doing this, the group of TDs set themselves up as a pseudo-gang feigning concern for workers’ interests. As the Government finally moved to dispose of the state asset within two days, under the contrived smoke screen of the marriage equality referendum result and the conclusion of public sector pay talks, this grouping immediately declared their concerns satisfied, without any basis, so further undermining the possibility of organised opposition to the sale.

Of even greater concern for trade unionists will be the role of our movement in meekly accepting this disposal of a state asset. Both the major unions in Aer Lingus, SIPTU and Impact, had already accepted in principle that they would not oppose, beyond mere verbiage, the sale. However, when even minor demands in relation to protecting workers terms of employment and jobs were not met by the company, little was heard.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from the debacle is that the leadership of some of our unions are so enthralled to the Labour Party agenda of social and economic liberalism that they are willing to jettison any commitment to the concept of democratic control of key state assets.

We can have all the 5 point and 10 point plans for a fairer better way but if we do not resist and struggle against privatisation we are complicit in the increasing corporatisation of society.