THE Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has voted to support the Lisbon Treaty — an expected but nonetheless significant boost for the yes campaign.
The executive council of ICTU met yesterday and voted by a majority of 14 to five to back the treaty. There were eight abstentions.
The vote followed a lengthy debate on the issue, which heard contributions from all sides.
ICTU will recommend to its 610,000 members to vote for the treaty. If members choose to follow the recommendation, it would mean a large swathe of the electorate going into the yes column on voting day — a major fillip for the Government.
However, yesterday’s decision does not preclude individual unions that are part of ICTU recommending a no vote. And two unions immediately made clear they would continue to campaign against the treaty.
The UNITE trade union, which has 60,000 members, expressed disappointment at the ICTU decision and said it would continue to advocate a no vote.
“This was a democratic decision and we accept that,” said UNITE regional secretary Jimmy Kelly.
“[But] UNITE will continue to advocate that its 60,000 members in the Republic vote no.
“We are not opposed to Europe. What we do oppose though is a poorly drafted treaty, which threatens to undermine national workers’ rights agreements that have been built up over many decades.”
Similarly, the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU), which has 45,000 members, said it would continue its campaign against the treaty.
“Recent key judgments by the European Court of Justice show the direction in which the EU is heading, and it is in favour of big business,” said TEEU general secretary-designate Eamon Devoy.
“In the circumstances, it would be foolish to provide the institutions of the EU with more power.”
But Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, welcoming the ICTU decision, said the treaty would enhance workers’ rights.
Labour is traditionally regarded as the political party closest to the trade unions, and Mr Gilmore said he looked forward to working with ICTU to ensure the biggest possible voter turnout in the referendum.
“The decisive nature of the vote — almost three to one — is particularly encouraging and I hope that all workers will now follow the advice given by the leadership of the Irish trade union movement and support the ratification of a treaty that will provide significant additional safeguards for workers through the Charter of Fundamental Rights,” said Mr Gilmore.
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