Siptu leader Jack O’Connor has defended Labour’s record in Government amid calls for the union to stop funding the party in protest at its policies.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett is among those pushing for Siptu to cut ties with Labour due to its austerity agenda. Mr Boyd Barrett said it was wrong for the union to fund a single party and its resources should be used in a wider democratic waysupporting political activity on a case-by-case basis.
Mr O’Connor said it was right for the party to consider its connections with Labour, but that the party had achieved much in Government against an unfavourable economic backdrop. The union leader commended Labour for reversing the cut in the minimum wage; strengthening workers’ rights; and protecting core welfare payments.
Siptu’s conference in Cork today (WEDS) debated two motions calling for an end to the funding of Labour, and another urging a full review of its links to the party.
Mr Boyd Barrett, who is one of those behind the motion calling for Siptu to cease its affiliation to Labour, said the party had “betrayed” the poor and vulnerable while in power and should not derive money from trade union members.
“The Labour Party has abandoned the less well-off and has imposed cruel and unfair austerity on their own supporters,” Mr Boyd Barrett told RTE.
“We don’t believe that the biggest union in the country should have an automatic affiliation to Labour, and give money to Labour, we think at the very least the union should democratise political funding and leave it to members to decide how it is spent.”
Mr O’Connor said he fully backed the Labour Party, but acknowledged that wider alliances needed to be forged.
“I will be voting for the Labour Party,” said Mr O’Connor. “I’m a member of the Labour Party. I’ve never considered leaving it or threatened to leave it and I never will. But I do recognise that we have to build alliances on the Left. We have to build alliances with groups on the Independent Left and people in the other parties that believe they’re on the Left. My only concern is that that work is not sufficiently progressed enough to offer a cohesive alternative to the people.”in the forthcoming election
Labour said the issue is an internal matter for Siptu. However, deputy leader Alan Kelly has insisted that the party’s close connections with the union will remainin place after the looming general election.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved