Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s day of protest organised by the ICTU (Irish Congress of Trade Unions), the 26 County Taoiseaach Brian Cowen has said that he is not seeking confrontations with workers.
The rallies are in support of a fairer way to deal with the economic crisis in the South
Mr Cowen said that anger was not a policy and did not provide a panacea.
He claimed he knew the responsibility and duty of the government, which had ultimately to make the decisions that had to be made.
“I would rather them to be made on an agreed format than on a non-agreed format.”
Talks currently underway between the government and the public sector unions have focussed on staff reductions as an alternative to pay cuts.
Mr Cowen said he needed to see signs of progress in the talks. He was replying to Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore who said that the Taoiseach had the choice of going down the route of confrontation, and he knew there were people encouraging him to do that.
“That would be a disaster,” Mr Gilmore added. “We are already seeing considerable signs of the degree of conflict to which it will lead.”
“There were quite disturbing noises from some of the Taoiseach’s own people,” he added.
“A Minister has described the relationship between two sets of workers in this country, namely, those in the private sector and those in the public sector, as being in a state of civil war.
“That is not the kind of language that is conducive to getting co-operation and agreement on what needs to be done.”
The Finance Minister Brian Lenihan today indicated he was planning to increase tax on low income earners, but warned that increased tax on high earners could stifle any potential economic recovery.
“Ireland has a relatively low rate of tax on low income earners, half of which are outside of the tax bracket, and it is an issue which we will have to look at in the future,” he said.
“However, further tax increases by the government will not increase the incentive to work.”
By way of explanation, he added: “Export-led growth drove the good times in the nineteen-nineties and as our competiveness is crucial to that, we are making the correct steps in private and public expenditure to make this happen.”
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams backed the ICTU’s call for a major mobilisation of public support for tomorrow’s rallies.
“Sinn Fein is encouraging party members and supporters and the public to come out in solidarity with fellow trade unionists, workers in the public, private and community sector and the general public,” he said.
“Ordinary citizens should unite in opposition to government plans to target the least well off to pay for the recession while 54 billion Euro of public money is being used to bail out bankers and developers through NAMA.
“All workers should be wary not to fall into the carefully fostered notion that the public and private sectors are in competition with each other.
“This government is preparing to target workers across the board regardless of what sector they work in and we need to unite in opposition this.”