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And speaking of that poll…and that agreement last night. March 30, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Oh dear oh dear. This has to be bad news for Fianna Fáil. What to do next they might well ask, having taken the ‘tough’ decisions, been applauded by a right of centre press and now face – as AK has noted in his analysis, a Michael Noonan/Fine Gael 2002 like outcome. Small reward for such supposed economic virtue.

Most interesting details? Well, a small gain by Sinn Féin, which might indicate that Gerry Adams speech is reaping some dividends by shifting away from left territory to more emollient ‘Republican’ territory. Labour retaining 17%. That’s a sustained trend. A couple more points and they’ll be up at 30 odd seats if the election goes well for them. 5% for the Green Party may be somewhat heartening, but where are those transfers going to come from? And note that Independents remain a significant bloc, although they’ve only gained 1%. I’ve been dubious that they’ll be returned in any numbers next time out, but… I’m changing my mind. An awful lot of the previous FF vote is going to go there, if the percentiles on this poll are anywhere accurate.

But more importantly look at Fine Gael. 35% and holding (okay, up 1%, but the point is made). That’s a solid solid vote and short of Kenny taking an axe to Varadkar, for his apostasy as regards Garret FitzGerald, hard to see them shrugging off too much of that any time soon. Kenny gets a lot of stick for his approach, but surely this vindicates his softly softly strategy. He’s no knight in shining armor, but, he’s steady and unthreatening. No small thing in a society that has undergone near-catastrophic shifts in the past couple of years.

And soon is soon. We’re now moving to two years and closing on the election. Cowen is clearly not a beloved leader, not even a respected leader, not even considered the leader to shift the economy around. The problem for him is that he’s unthreatening too, but in a bad way.

For all the arm waving about that latter topic it remains striking how few people have bought into the notion that he can do it. A mere 29% think he’s up to the job (remarkably a figure somewhat greater than his party support – is that the GP voter in there?). 66% disagree with only 5% not knowing. If there is no alternative precious few people believe that the only remaining option will be successful under him. Which is odd given that apparently there’s no alternative and the government is continuing to proceed with the measures that are supposed to inevitable.

Of course, comes the response, ‘this would be true of any government at this point’. And maybe so. But I wonder if FF aren’t prisoners of their own rhetoric. NAMA has shifted back into the public eye. The commentariat’s calls for blood in terms of arrests has taken place. But curiously this hasn’t assuaged a population which has donated quite enough of its own, thank you. I think, perhaps fatally for FF, the idea that NAMA represents a bailout of their mates has taken root. It may be fully true, or only partially so, or not really – but that is largely irrelevant. It feels true for many and therefore they’re not going to demur when it comes to pointing fingers.

Then there’s that pesky past. The small matter that the Taoiseach was Minister of Finance is coming back to haunt him in no small way. The DDDA/Anglo crossover provides more problems. The safe pair of hands when Bertie shrugged off the job way back when is suddenly looking dangerously exposed.

No wonder elements in the FF back benches are squirming. Where, they may well be wondering, is this taking them?

As ever, what about the Left? Well, if we tot up the figures we see that between them Labour and Sinn Féin have 27%. We can most likely throw in a few extra percentiles from the SP and other left party candidates. So, being generous, we see a situation where – even excluding the Green Party – the Left sits on 30% plus. The attacks on the public sector appear to have failed in one key respect…and that is politically.

And here’s the thing about such attacks. It’s all very well for the Sunday Independent or various commentators to whip up a fury about the public sector. But the truth is for all the macho bullshit about deep cuts and massive redundancies neither politically nor economically are either of those courses terribly sensible, and that workforce (or more importantly electorate) isn’t simply going to vanish. Particularly politically.

Instead of their voters simply supporting the current government, it seems that they have gone to Labour. 5% or more across almost two years now. Quite some achievement by Fianna Fáil to lose them. Quite some achievement by Labour to claw them away and to retain them.

And this presents a pretty problem for Fianna Fáil. For to claw them back they’d have to do something… like… like… minimise the effects of the cuts on the public sector in some fashion. Attempt to negotiate work arounds as regards pay and conditions… what’s that you say? Go into talks with Public sector unions? Perhaps even successfully negotiate an agreement with said unions, until recently the most damned of the damned! The worst of the worst. The… language fails us.

And lo and behold, that’s precisely what is going on (by the by, a notably emollient language from John Gormley at the weekend as regards public sector workers).

This game isn’t over. Not by a long shot. And whatever about the commentariat, who are going to go crazy apeshit over this (Garibaldy’s Sunday Independent post almost, but not quite, writes itself… ‘collective loss of nerve’, ‘betrayal of the coping classes’, etc, etc) the calculation in Fianna Fáil might be that 5% from their ‘natural’ constituency is 5% too much, particularly when the only ones to gain are… Labour and in a broader sense Fine Gael.

Is that enough? Not really, but it’s something. On these figures Fianna Fáíl will be going into an election, even if it manages to draw back some support from Labour, on or about 30%, at best. But it may be too late. AK I think points to a meltdown in the FF vote. Despite last night’s agreement this may still be where all this is heading.

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1. DublinDilettante - March 30, 2010

If you’re suggesting that the Take The Painers are going to be displeased with this deal, I’d have to disagree. The unions have got nothing from the deal, and the government have ticked off everything on their shopping list (no-strike clause, no reinstatement of cut pay, no lifting of moratorium, and carte blanche to do what they like in “unforeseen circumstances.”) A complete capitulation on all counts by the union leaders, as expected. The only conceivable percentage to the Indo etc in presenting this as a union victory is to ensure the passage of the ballots, but I don’t think that’s in any doubt. Most union members aren’t politicised militants, and the dog’s abuse they’ve endured for very limited action has hit hard.

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2. EWI - March 30, 2010

The unions have got nothing from the deal, and the government have ticked off everything on their shopping list (no-strike clause, no reinstatement of cut pay, no lifting of moratorium, and carte blanche to do what they like in “unforeseen circumstances.”)

A lot depends on how you interpret this kind of stuff. I can’t imagine that the no-strike clause would be honoured if the Government were clearly reneging on the deal, and that the banks story is going to end in tears has been “foreseen” by everyone (except FF and FG).

The moratorium will be selectively lifted, I think.

I’m surprised that there’s no change on the exemption of the public sector top brass from the cuts. That would very much help in accepting this.

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3. EWI - March 30, 2010

By the way, WbS, if Harris doesn’t compare this to the Munich Agreement I’l be very disappointed in him, I must say.

The day when public sector Panzers roll into D4 surely cannot be far off…

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CMK - March 30, 2010

“The day when public sector Panzers roll into D4 surely cannot be far off…”

Thanks for that image; hiliariously funny yet captures neatly the Sindo mindset.

On the deal, it appears that the unions, under their current leadership, will never escape the politicaly gravity generated by partnership. Maybe when their members are emaciated and barefoot they might contemplate some radical action (a general strike, anyone?) but, on second thoughts probably not: “we’ve won important concessions from the government – rations will now only be reduced to 1500 calories a day and not the proposed 1000 calories, we think we can sell this to our members”.

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LeftAtTheCross - March 30, 2010

T34s rather than Panzers surely?

Disappointing for sure. I haven’t seen any media coverage yet of union reaction to the deal. Will be interesting to see how they pitch it.

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que - March 30, 2010

As left notes it might be T34s or the next model up.

I think panzers are reserved in the Sindo mindset for the nefarious shinners.

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EWI - March 30, 2010

My apologies to the good folks of the CLR – the final push of the Public Sector Unions into the D4 enclave would, of course, be using the best tanks that Russian organised labour can build.

The FF cavalry in this scenario, would arrive in clapped-out civvie helicopters painted green that they bought off their mate down the pub (with an envelope passed under the table). Not that such things could take place in real life, mar dhea.

“Bomber” Harris, of course, is a B-52 man.

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WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2010

On a slight tangent, about five years ago I was interviewed for a job with a crowd based on the south side of Dublin. I remember them telling me that they didn’t keep regular hours, that indeed projects they were involved in of one sort or another meant that they expected people to be more like bomber crews than infantry.

Hmmmm…

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4. Drithleóg - March 30, 2010

I agree with DublinDilettante – it was a complete climb-down on the part of the union leaders. Their achievement – an agreement that there’ll be no further pay cuts for PS workers before 2014. Let’s remember that they weren’t fighting for “no more cuts”, they were fighting for the REVERSAL of the existing cuts.

Already we have Minister of State for Public Service Transformation Dara Calleary saying the unions could not be absolutely guaranteed restoration of their pay cuts when an independent Implementation Body reviews the changes within the sector.

In return they’ve accepted longer hours, more flexibility, abandonment of their industrial action and further staff cuts and ‘voluntary’ redundancies.

The next job for the unions at the behest of their masters is to sell this to the workers – with the help of a media baying for their blood if they even think of saying No and a government threatening a war of attrition with further cuts, imposed changes and more staffing levels cuts.

Take a bow Mr. McCloone – you’ve done the ‘state’ some service.

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EWI - March 30, 2010

Already we have Minister of State for Public Service Transformation Dara Calleary saying the unions could not be absolutely guaranteed restoration of their pay cuts when an independent Implementation Body reviews the changes within the sector.

The devil is in the detail on this one, I think. The opportunity for deals under the table or for one side (guess which) screwing the other over is very high on the face of it.

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5. irishelectionliterature - March 30, 2010

I find it hard to see how this will be accepted by the membership of various Unions. By ballot they were all given carte blanche for strike action.
If I remember correctly a change to working conditions was one of the items on the ballot that would allow strike action.
Now if the Unions are coming back with a change in working conditions as part of the agreement with nothing in return then they are in for a shock.
Is there still a moratorium on certain promotions?
Also what is a levy classified as? or are Levies part of the agreement.

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EWI - March 30, 2010

Is there still a moratorium on certain promotions?

I suspect not for senior grades (never is).

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6. Crocodile - March 30, 2010

Entirely unscientific response from my public service workmates this morning: suck it and see.
How much will our conditions decline?
Who’ll judge our ‘flexibility’ or ‘productivity’? Local management or government departments, centrally? The Sunday papers?
What ever happened to the old trades unionist’s maxim: ‘never sell conditions for pay’?
I can’t disagree with previous contributors that this is no victory for the unions – but it’s also true that there are varying degrees of militancy/resignation in the public service: there are people in my office who would sign up to almost any deal that promised no further loss of earnings.

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7. shea - March 30, 2010

FF could get one other thing out of it and thats FG giving out that civil servents pay won’t be cut at the next budget.

For FF to get back in to power next time they need labour, at least. no small party will do because the numbers aren’t there to take the seanad.

probably giving them to much credit and everything they’ve done so far goes against it but the only way there going to survive is with that thinking.

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8. Jim Monaghan - March 30, 2010

I feel that it will be accepted.Union conferences tend to be more militant than the rank and file. On a footnote they have also accepted the change in pension arrangements for new public service workers. So much for the future.On a cynical note what have the Greek workers got.Very little for all the rioting.The IMF and the EU monitoring everything.
We are in a Europe and a Euro where Germany calls the shots. Germany is where we borrow the money and Germany or at least the German bourgeoisie feel that the rest of Europe does not work hard enough.Perhaps we should be negotiating with M. Merkel rather than Cowan.
We should note that the government plans are based on further cutbacks next year.
This side of revolution is boils down to who will pay for this depression.I think Keynesian ism in a single small country is a chimera.
It bodes ill that they could not make the Senior Civil Servants pay a decent share..After all regulation failed because of their failures. It might not have brought in much but it would have been symbolic. I can imagine that based on this the productivity and inconveniences will also be taken by the lower grades.So redeployment where ever it suits for say CPSU people and the higher ups will be spared any trouble

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9. Captain Rock - March 30, 2010

Coming in raging about this. Then I hear Alan Ruddock claiming that the ‘public service’ (with his voice dripping with contempt) have been spared pay cuts, job cuts and hold their pensions. That’s how it will be sold: just read the ravings of the SINDO and hold your nose. It is a very bad deal, and essentially the last year of objecting to cuts has been fighting under false pretences. Given that some of the ICTU leadership spent the last decade on FAS boards and on quangos, what should we have expected?
Surely Jim, an old trot like you would also recognise the question of leadership? If just one of the ICTU leaders said, no, we won’t take it, let Anglo go under and fuck NAMA, there would be an echo.

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EWI - March 30, 2010

Surely Jim, an old trot like you would also recognise the question of leadership? If just one of the ICTU leaders said, no, we won’t take it, let Anglo go under and fuck NAMA, there would be an echo.

Is Mick O’Reilly retired completely from union doings? What about Ogle?

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10. WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2010

I’m presuming Ruddock, who works for an industry in decline, won’t be short a pension come the day. And I entirely agree re even just one saying stop, enough.

Jim, I think I get what you’re saying, but I’m a bit dubious that we can’t have some Keynesian measures are impossible. Arguably the situation in the late 1940s was worse, or indeed the early 1930s, and yet both Clann na P and Fianna Fáil were able to manage small scale but not ineffective pump priming. Given that the Commission on Taxation eschewed even minimal tax increases and no serious widening of the tax net has occurred I’d be a lot more optimistic that there are measures that can be taken – and that’s to put aside that for NAMA we’re raiding the NPRF with a will, measures that’s aren’t beyond question and which directly limit the amount of disposable monies for use to tide us across.

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11. Jim Monaghan - March 31, 2010

I agree it is also a question of leadership but I am sceptical about wishing things to happen.I really don’t see much stomach for action. What there is seems to be sectional interests trying to follow the senior civil servants. The Gardai and the Prison officers for a start.
Too many Trotskyist extrapolate from a minor strike to dreaming about power. We are a long way from having a real crisis of confidence amongst the Ruling Class and having even a shadow of a real revolutionary party.
Even reformists in the ICTU are usually careful not to distance themselves too far from their membership.
Alas, there are no Merrigans or O’Reillys who might have began to make a fightback coalition.

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DublinDilettante - March 31, 2010

No Trotskyists take that attitude*. If anything, they take a far longer term and more arduous approach than reformists, who imagine that a Labour government could create a just society from the government benches within the present parameters. Trotskyists see building militancy in the labour movement as an indispensable part of societal change (sometimes to a fault), no matter how long it takes.

*Well, maybe the SWP. But I don’t think they really believe it.

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12. dmfod - March 31, 2010

couldn’t agree more – the sp have a very realistic assessment of the prospects for widespread militancy and know it will be a very long hard struggle if and when it finally emerges.

having said that conditions can also change very rapidly during a major crisis with last straws possibly accumulating. something has to give eventually, though there will be more swings and roundabouts & steps forward and back. and yes leadership is of course crucial.

the trouble is we’ve had 30 years+ of decline in the labour movement which needs to be completely rebuilt from the bottom up and the current leadership with a few honourable exceptions thrown out.

this is a huge task as most union members have very little faith in their union and see it as a service provider external to themselves which has failed just like the banks and the gvt. people need to start taking responsiblity for their unions which are still (just about) member organisations that can be reclaimed.

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13. Jim Monaghan - March 31, 2010

Ok WbS there are a few pump priming on a modest scale that could be done.Not quite self financing but close enough.
An insulation scheme/solar panel etc. Jobs in construction taken from dole queque so the subsidy might basically be the tax.
A 52% tax system with teh amount ringfenced for job creation.
This on incomes over 80000 euro
A new maximum salary in the public service or public service controlled bodies of say 200000 Euros. Money saved to be ploughed back into very low paid and new public service jobs.
I feel that construction jobs probably would be the quickest to get off the ground.
While I have huge reservations about it I would like to see a back to work measure with wage subsidies and even a short working week even at correspondingly relatively low pay. I can hear the term trade union rates but Community Employment definitely does not pay trade union rates and I have not heard anyone calling for them to be closed until they are paid.
Thousands are in danger of their qualifications dying if they do not get work in their trades and professions.Even a 3/4 day week woiuld keep these qualifgications alive until better times come.
I appreciate the danger of yellow pack jobs but we shouild ask the question whether some things are better than the dole.
On a general note Capital is now definitely global while the Labour response is purely local.How can we protect jobs say in Intel when the next generation of investment can go anywhere in the world. Oh I should point out thet the machinery in Intel is probably good for less than 7 years oif even that.

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WorldbyStorm - March 31, 2010

I think what you outline is precisely the way forward Jim. It’s not going to everything, and certainly not enough on its own. But it would be a huge step forward.

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14. Jim Monaghan - March 31, 2010

The problem with reformists is that they have few ideas on reform so timid are they.Why is the non revolutionary left so scared toput forward a few real ideas.Someone should tell Burton that moaning is not enough. LLyod George was radical and reformist so was British Labour in 1945. Why even Blair showed some promise on hois first outing compared to Irish Labour.
A billion to the county councils financed by a 52% tax on higher earners would probably clear the housing list and put a floor on house prices.This would in turn stave off bankrupticies for a lot of the smaller builders and keep them afloat and able to pay off their loans thus helping the banks.

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