Union bosses must accept Cowen’s right to act in interests of majority

WITH less than two weeks to go until budget day, it is disconcerting to see Taoiseach Brian Cowen waver in the face of union opposition to essential wage cuts.

After an extensive six-month study of all the facts related to our dire economic predicament, Bord Snip, headed by Colm McCarthy, produced an honest list of unpalatable, but necessary, recommendations for consideration by the Government. It would have been easy for the highly qualified members of that expert group to come up with a relatively benign report, as has sometimes been the case with other government initiatives, but McCarthy pulled no punches.

His thorough and comprehensive report left little doubt about what needs to be done. For this, he was subjected to unfair criticism by irate union leaders and even by senior figures in the Government that appointed him.

Often, when approached for comment, he had to run the gauntlet of some populist media reporters.

So much for facing the facts. Now we have a situation where public sector unions are being consulted by government on alternatives to cuts previously flagged by Mr Cowen. Few of the Bord Snip recommendations are likely to figure prominently in those discussions. Though expert opinion was sought and produced at great cost, union leaders who oversaw the one-way street of benchmarking, which infamously led to the demise of our competitiveness, will still have an input in government plans for economic recovery.

The mixed signals emanating from various government sources, including Mr Cowen, and populist soundbites from both of the main opposition leaders, are deeply disturbing.

People are rightly worried for their future and that of their children and grandchildren. It was the arrogance of union leaders that brought Britain to its knees in the early 1980s. It’s doubtful we could survive a similar event and still retain our independence.

Mr Cowen must act decisively.

Union bosses must accept the Government’s right to act in the interests of the majority.

Niall Ginty

The Demesne

Killester

Dublin 5

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