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Interview with Jack O’Connor… May 28, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Another Hot Press interview from Jason O’Toole. And a figure who, on the left, is probably a lot more controversial than the Healy-Raes!

The media has given you a hard time over the years. Does it upset you at all?

No. Giving the class nature of some of the media, I would be concerned if they were giving me a good time: I would be examining my conscience!

What about the argument that union leaders are divorced from reality with their big salaries and big houses?
I’m accused of that very often by people who grew up with silver spoons in their mouths and had the luxury of being feather-bedded through university and so on. I can be taught nothing about hardship or the problems of being poor.
None of them did the things that I did: I was out picking peas for five shillings a day when I was ten-years-old, when most of them were in kindergarten. I would acknowledge, of course, that as one grows older and one, in the case of myself, has a very good salary, it is possible to become comfortable – not just physically but intellectually. But I’m continuously engaged in union meetings with members. I’m also active in the Labour Party and knocking at doors. One’s outlook and ideas and perception of the world are formed by one’s entire lived experience – And none of them can tell me anything about hardship if you apply it to the context of my entire life.

Do you feel your salary is justified?
When I became an officer of the union, my salary was 18.6% less than the people who went before me as a result of a campaign I personally ran throughout the 1990s. And then we took all the pay cuts that applied in public services,
although we were never paid benchmarkingduring the good years. And my salary is now – pro-rata, allowing for inflation – about 44% less than the salary was before I became an officer of the union. And then pension has been cut by 40% over recent years, as a result of steps that are necessary to keep the pension scheme alive without applying additional cost to the members of the union. The salary I’m on is €108,385, which is about where it be would across the not-for-profit sector. I am the president of the biggest trade union in the country. It would be considerably less than that would apply in the private sector and, indeed, in the public sector.
It’s not for me to judge whether it’s appropriate. It’s not decided by me. It’s decided by the National Executive Council of the Union, which is an elected body. I’m often accused of being paid three times that – and I’m often accused of not taking pay cuts! I’ve outlined for you the history of the salary I’m paid and the pension I hope to receive in a few years time.

What’s your thoughts on the Joan Burton and
Jobstown protest controversy?

There’s a great deal of misinformation. For example, it’s being promulgated that Joan Burton was prosecuting this action, which is utterly untrue: this is a criminal case that’s being prosecuted by the State arising from a report that
was submitted to the DPP. The whole incident, and the subsequent case, haven’t done any of the protagonists any good. It’s a pity that it couldn’t have just been forgotten about. There is a necessity to recognise and respect people’s right to protest and with every right we have to acknowledge that it should be accompanied by
obligations. I understand very well how these things develop. It was unfortunate. I hope that no one goes to jail.

Where did it all go wrong for Labour?
They chose instead of going into Opposition to go into government in the clear knowledge that they were risking the very existence of the party in order to prevent Fine Gael from enjoying absolute power and implementing the brutal agenda that was outlined in their election manifesto. I distinctly recall that we went out to UCD to vote on the Programme for Government one very bright Sunday morning in and I remember coming out of the conference hall, saying that we would come back with five seats!

So, what needs to be done?
We will have to reach out to people who share our worldview. We have to make approaches to the people who are in the Social Democratic Party and other independent social democrats and democratic socialists. We will have to allow our record in government to be scrutinised.
And, by the way, if it’s scrutinised objectively it will stand up an awful lot better than the way it’s being perceived. We have to acknowledge where we were wrong. And we will have to be prepared to acknowledge too that some of the people who left Labour and who were alienated by the party probably weren’t treated as well as they should’ve been. I earnestly look forward to the day when all of the democratic socialists and the social democrats in Ireland – irrespective of whether they be in the Labour Party or Democratic Party or otherwise independently on the left – come together to develop a common programme.

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