ICTU to invest in economic unit

THE Irish Congress of Trade Unions is to invest more than €300,000 per year for at least the next five years in a specialist economic unit.

For the past year, the union has been considering the establishment of a body which will offer a co-ordinated union position on the economy.

“Our view is over the last 12 months our predictions (about the economy) have been borne out,” said an ICTU source.

“We said the Government would attempt to go down the deflationary route to get the country back to competitiveness and that such a route would fail.

“However, we have not been able to generate the material to put the meat on the bones of the intellectual arguments which we have made,” the source said.

Until now, the ICTU has relied on its economist Paul Sweeney, as well as those of affiliate unions such as Marie Sherlock of SIPTU, to comment and formulate policy on the country’s financial state.

However, it believes that its output has been too sporadic and it needs to be seen in the media to have a regular and all-inclusive position. At present, it is courting input from academics who will help to pinpoint how the unit should be staffed and where the expertise should be drawn from.

No timeframe has been established but ICTU hopes to establish it for an initial period of at least five years.

Meanwhile, trade union leaders have warned that if the Government proceeds with substantial cuts in the community and voluntary sector, it will leave a “toxic legacy” in our poorest communities.

At a seminar, entitled The Community Sector – A Cut Too Far, IMPACT trade union deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan said the combination of heavy job losses and reduced services in the area would create a toxic legacy that would affect generations.

“There is no question that further cuts in this sector will do greater harm, and the vibrant social economy built by the community and voluntary sector will collapse,” he said.

“That means reduced childcare and early education services. It means reduced services for people who are homeless or who need drug addiction services. It means fewer services for those experiencing consistent poverty, domestic violence and abuse.

“But the long-term consequences are even greater, because it means future generations will be robbed of the improved outcomes that all of these services currently provide.”

He said the toxic legacy will be more poverty, more exclusion, and far deeper social problems.

“That will mean greater pressure in other areas, for example in our public health services and the criminal justice system,” he said.

A report by independent researcher Brian Harvey earlier this year warned that the community and voluntary sector faces a loss of up to 5,000 jobs while demand for services provided by the sector continues to climb.


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