Unite Irish Policy Conference 2022: Cost of living crisis and workers’ rights dominate first day of conference

The first day of Unite’s Sixth Irish Policy Conference in Malahide today (Monday) was dominated by motions on workers’ rights and energy costs.

Patricia King says cost of living crisis needs be to challenged head-on

The Conference started with an address by Congress General Secretary Patricia King who said:

“The cost of living crisis that is gripping Ireland and Northern Ireland is one that needs to be challenged head-on. We need to challenge the myth that is pedalled by some that improvements to wages will exacerbate the problems – it will not”.

Ms King continued: “We need to see Governments approach the cost of living crisis with the same urgency and intensity as the Covid 19 crisis’.

The chair of Unite’s Executive Council, Tony Woodhouse, said:

“Irish workers are facing a triple crisis:  a crisis of wages, a crisis of costs, and a profiteering crisis.  Every pay rise won for workers goes into the economy – not to the Cayman Islands”.  

Introducing the debate on the economy, Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock said:

“The cost of living crisis that we are experiencing is the worst in 40 years. Workers need to see pay increases that match inflation if we are not to suffer a collapse in living standards. The trade union movement has a vital role to play in defending workers and working-class people at this time”.

Mr Pollock added: “Collective bargaining is about respect and it’s time for the Irish government to respect working people and legislate for collective bargaining”.

Moving an Irish Executive Committee motion to address energy costs by imposing energy price caps throughout the island of Ireland, requiring that all energy companies offer customers their lowest rates regarding of the length of time customers have been with the company, and imposing a moratorium of disconnections, IEC member Bridie McCreesh said:

“These islands are among the least dependent in Europe on oil and gas from Russia for supply. There is no objective need for a spike in energy costs – the only reason we have them is that our private-for-profit model is charging us the same price that they can get for oil and gas on the global market. With a socially-owned and controlled energy sector we could keep energy prices down – but it seems no-one in power wants to talk about nationalisation”.

Introducing the debate on trade union, employment and workers’ rights, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer Tom Fitzgerald said: 

“There is a reason that successive governments have failed to legislate for full collective bargaining rights.  And it has nothing to do with constitutional impediments or any of the other impediments thrown out.  It is because the political and economic establishment know that there is nothing more powerful than the organised working class”.

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