No campaign union leaders condemn Referendum Commission

TRADE union leaders opposed to the Lisbon treaty have called for the group tasked with providing objective information on both sides of the Lisbon debate to step down amid claims of pro-treaty bias.

Announcing their intention to support the no campaign yesterday, several union leaders from Unite, SIPTU and the TEEU insisted legal guarantees secured on sensitive issues by the Government for the treaty were “empty political promises”.

They went on to allege the Referendum Commission was not objective and the “thrust” of its latest leaflet on the referendum was towards a yes vote.

Eddie Conlon, former honorary secretary with the Teachers Union of Ireland, said that, if the Commission was not prepared to provide objective information on both sides of the argument, then it should resign.

“They should do the job they [are tasked to] do, which is provide the people with information, if they’re not doing that maybe they should resign.

“This document, and I agree with what Patricia McKenna said, is a clear [yes] argument. On this page, it says vote, I thought when I turn it over it would say ‘yes’.”

Earlier this week, Ms McKenna claimed the Referendum Commission’s booklet on the Lisbon treaty was “not impartial”.

The booklet, distributed to every home nationwide, was designed in such a way as to reassure voters the treaty was fine, said the former MEP.

At the launch yesterday, Jimmy Kelly, Unite regional secretary, said, if the Referendum Commission “don’t want to be independent, then they shouldn’t be given taxpayers’ money”.

The group of trade unionists also called on Irish workers to vote no, arguing that, despite negotiations by the Government, nothing had changed since the treaty’s rejection in June last year.

Workers’ pay and conditions were still threatened as a result of rulings from the European Court of Justice, which opened the way for contractors to use cheap labour and overrule national laws, it was claimed.

Kieran Allen, SIPTU education branch president, said workers should be worried when a figure like Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary was willing to pump €500,000 of his own money into the yes campaign when he was a “union buster”.

There was nothing in the treaty to protect workers like employees in Thomas Cook and Coca-Cola who had fought for better conditions and pay, said the no group.

The Referendum Commission will today launch its information campaign and chairman Frank Clarke is expected to address a number of issues raised by groups.

The Commission strongly rejected the claims yesterday that its leaflet was not impartial.

SIPTU will also vote today on its stance on the treaty.


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