On the second day of Unite’s Sixth Irish Policy Conference in Malahide, delegates debated a range of motions covering equalities, organising and industrial areas, as well as the public sector. Speakers also addressed motions on political and social action.
Introducing the Equalities debate, Regional Women’s and Equalities Officer Taryn Trainor referred to the need to protect people with ‘pre-existing conditions’ during the pandemic and said: “We know that ‘pre-existing conditions’ made people more vulnerable to Covid-19, but we also need to talk about ‘pre-existing inequalities’. Because the pre-existing equality that made some groups more vulnerable – physically, mentally and economically – to the pandemic, is also making some groups more vulnerable to the cost of living crisis, and will make them more vulnerable to a recession”.
Speaking during the Equalities debate, Irish Executive Committee member and BAEM chair Memet Uludag gave a powerful speech on his own experience of racism, and concluded that: “The fight against racism is not new in our union. But we need to advance this vision that brings our struggle to new strengths that reflects 21st century Ireland. A vision where our BAEM members are leaders in this union and branches. Unite has the potential to work with established anti-racism campaigns with the BAEM members at its centre. This will not only strengthen our union but also send out a powerful message: We will not be divided and our fight for economic justice is not separate from our fight for social justice”.
Introducing the organising debate, Organising Team Leader Tayra McKee said: “Working people have been under attack over the last decade. And if we are to successfully defend them, we ourselves have to put in the hard work of organising workers, building strong teams of workplace reps, building density, organisational capacity and ensuring workplaces are strike-ready. The gains made by our movement over the last two hundred years – and by this union and our predecessor unions over the past century – have been won by our collective strength”.
Speaking at the start of a debate on a range of industrial motions, Regional Coordinating Officer Susan Fitzgerald said that motions highlighted the issues politicising a generation: “A generation is being politicised and mobilised by issues from low pay to the need to protect hard-won terms and conditions in the face of privatisation, as well as the need for reliable, stable and sustainable energy provision that does not wreak havoc on our environment”.
Introducing the debate on political and social action, Regional Coordinating Officer Davy Thompson said:
“Trade unionism may not be party political but we are a political organisation. We defend workers from bosses, we fight to save jobs and we try to ensure pay keeps pace with inflation, but we go far beyond that. Where there is commonality we can work together with politicians to secure common goals, but we will always retain our own priorities”.
Responding to the debate on political and social action, Senior Officer Brendan Ogle said that “Workers are in a class war unprecedented for decades. Workers are not facing a cost of living crisis – they are facing a cost-of-corporate-greed crisis, and not just from the private sector”.
Responding to the public sector debate, Regional Coordinating Officer Tom Fitzgerald said:
“Members have spoken about two pieces of legislation which date back to the era of austerity following the crash, and which are being kept on the statute books as a legal weapon against public sector workers: the 2009 FEMPI Act and the 2012 Public Service Pensions Act.
They’re being kept on the books so that, in the event of another recession, the Government can dip into the pockets of public sector workers and pensioners – and use the coercive provisions of FEMPI to quell any resistance.Unite will not only be lobbying the current Government to repeal this legislation: we will also be seeking cast-iron commitments from any parties likely to form the next Government that they will scrap these acts”.