In his New Year message for 2022, Workers Party President Cllr. Ted Tynan focuses on poverty, austerity, the threats posed by the privatisation of public services and utilities, the impact of the housing crisis, deepening sectarianism and the continued absence of a Bill of Rights.
“We live in difficult times”, he said, pointing to the “continuing effects of Covid-19, heightened by decades of austerity during which millions of workers have been exposed to risk in the pursuit of profit”
The ‘working poor’
Highlighting the ongoing effects of hardship and need, the Party President said “Hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland live in poverty and many of those are the so-called “working poor” unable to live and feed their families although in employment. Women, in particular,often have to work in low-paid precarious jobs.
This is compounded, he said by “a significant decline in living standards, a situation set to deteriorate, as the cost of living continues to increase, wages continue to decline and social benefits come under attack”.
“The capitalist class continues to pursue its relentless agenda of privatisation. Increasingly, important sectors of the economy: education, healthcare, energy, transport, communications and state infrastructure are targeted for transfer from state ownership to private control. The vitally important health and social care sectors are under-funded and under persistent attack”, he said.
Sectarianism and a Bill of Rights
Speaking specifically about Northern Ireland, Cllr Tynan said “…the demand for a dedicated Bill of Rights, despite decades of political work, has yet to be conceded. Sectarianism runs deep though public and private life in Northern Ireland. It is institutionalised in the apparatus of government. It can only be tackled by a comprehensive campaign against sectarianism on all fronts.
“The various nationalist forces, orange and green, are determined to press forward with their divisive agendas and are prepared to sacrifice the principle of workers’ unity and class struggle to serve their communal ends”.
Climate change and international issues
Addressing the need for climate change he reiterated that this can only be achieved through a change in the economic, political systems.
Cllr Tynan singled out two international issues for special mention: the ongoing provocation and aggression against the Cuban people and the cruel siege and blockade of Gaza.
“We recognise the continuing importance of the class struggle and a united working class … and the construction of a socialist world where the working class controls its own future”, the Party president concluded.
2021 has confirmed at least five things that many already knew.
1.We were only able to continue in the face of the global pandemic thanks to our key workers. From health and care staff, to drivers, maintenance teams, researchers, retail workers key service sectors and emergency services and their support structures, society continued to function because of their efforts, their input and their commitment.
2. The year also highlighted that many of these key workers are amongst the lowest paid and least valued. Add to that the fact that many public services have been deliberately underfunded and run down over a number of years and, as they strain to respond to the demands of the pandemic, the very people who crippled them present their privatisation as the solution.
3. We were reminded too that capitalism and public health are basically incompatible. The pandemic exposed many of the profit centred priorities of the capitalist system. It has compounded pre-existing inequalities in wealth, race, gender, age, education and geographical location. We are not ‘all in this together’ and we never were.
4. We also learned that the nurse, the cleaner and the key workers in essential services are far more important to society than the executives of the large corporations. We have learned that society can and is willing to make sacrifices, and to make the changes necessary to create a better world for everyone.
5 Only a socialist society can safeguard and enhance public health for all. Only a socialist society can provide the economy, the job security, opportunities and rewards that all those who have made the sacrifices and coped with the changes deserve as we strive to make socialism the new normal.
A resolution designed to halt the privatisation of water services has been adopted by Cork City Council. Proposed by Workers Party President Councillor Ted Tynan the motion urged the council to contact the three trade unions currently involved in discussions about transferring council staff to the new Irish Water body.
The motion was passed almost unanimously with only one councillor voting against.
Cllr Tynan said,” If these negotiations are successful, they will have a major negative impact on the ability of local authorities, such as Cork City Council, to continue to provide essential services to its citizens, and, most importantly, will lead to Irish Water becoming a private company, resulting in our water, waste water treatment, and sewage services falling into private ownership”.
The main political parties, North and South, are quite comfortable to turn public utilities into private companies. They have no qualms about a society where the relentless pursuit of profit takes priority and everything is measured by its retail value alone. Nor have they any difficulties acting as the broker in converting public ownership into private profit.
While we still need to applaud the work of the NHS and all the staff who help provide it, we also need to watch its back.
The Stormont Executive has been discussing the introduction of charges for a range of services including prescription charges, fees for domiciliary care, and paying to see a GP or attend an Emergency Department (A&E).
Other measures thought to be included are fees for hearing aids, paying for non-emergency patient transport, paying for missed GP appointments and a review of eligibility for free eye tests.
The foundation of the NHS in 1948, and the securing of the principle that health care would be free at the point of use and available to every citizen from the cradle to the grave, was amongst the most significant social developments of the 20th century in Britain and Northern Ireland. These changes were not given freely, they were won by the struggles of the organised working class.
Everyone who values that principle should now be prepared to stand in defence of the NHS and the publicly funded, free at the point of delivery services that it provides.
Last week in the Assembly their Agricultural spokesperson Declan McAleer announced that they “do not agree with a ban on hunting” then went on, along with his fellow Sinn Fein MLAs, to vote against, and played a key role in defeating a private members’ bill that would have banned the hunting of wild mammals with dogs.
Unmoved by the public outrage which followed, Sinn Fein confirmed, and attempted to justify, its stance the following day.
Perhaps they are concerned less with the savagery of wild animals being torn apart by a pack of hounds than they are with protecting the practices of any of their supporters in the border counties who think that terrorising and killing wild animals is ‘sport’.
Sinn Fein MLA, Aine Murphy, last week tabled a motion to ban fracking in Northern Ireland. It was very specific. It called for a ban on fracking into shale rock. Not a total ban, not a ban on other forms of drilling or a ban on petroleum or gas extraction – just shale rock fracking.
This is a serious issue in areas like Fermanagh. However, the exploration company, Tamboran Resources, that wanted to frack thousands of acres there reversed its decision last year under enormous public pressure and has announced that it will use conventional drilling methods instead. Sinn Fein has adopted a very strange position for a party that claims to protect the environment.
Whether its foxes or fracking Sinn Fein will always fudge its position. One thing remains absolutely clear. Sinn Fein is concerned only with itself alone. The environment and wild animals are clearly expendable.
The Workers Party supports an immediate end to hunting with dogs and the prohibition of cruel “sports” and it remains resolutely opposed to fracking.
The Workers Party supports the Tesco warehouse workers and HGV drivers who are set to stage a series of strikes in the coming weeks in a dispute over pay.
Unite, the Union representing these workers,says that over 1,000 workers at depots in Antrim, Belfast, Didcot and Doncaster plan action starting on December 16.
Unite said that Tesco had offered a 4 per cent pay rise, describing it as “well below” the current retail price index (RPI) inflation rate of 6 per cent.The current consumer prices index (CPI) is 4.2 per cent and the Union has described strike action as a last resort having exhausted all other options.
Tesco is a large and profitable company which doubled profits in the first half of the year. The company reported a 1.3% growth in sales to more than £12bn for the first quarter of 2021 and has predicted an operating profit of £2.6 billion for the current financial year.
Throughout the pandemic, millions of workers have been exposed to risk in the pursuit of profit. These workers and their trade union have asked for a fair pay offer. Tesco’s response is an insult to those workers who have demonstrated their commitment to maintain the supply of essential foodstuffs during the course of the pandemic. While Tesco profits, their workers are expected to pay the price.
The Workers Party will always stand with workers and their just demands and our Party offers its full and total support to these workers in their fight for fair pay and the immediate satisfaction of the workers’ demands.
Light-touch regulation, Freeports, and Enterprise Zones are the centrepieces of the recent Belfast Chamber of Commerce report, ‘Empowering Belfast’. Its stated aim is to devolve power from Stormont to local councils: and to Belfast City Council in particular.
Despite its fanfare launch and the accompanying hype it is unlikely to deliver anything of substance for working class people in the city and beyond.
What this report, and others like it, attempts to do is to give private interests greater powers in local government decision-making and to turn Belfast port and other areas in Northern Ireland into de facto tax havens with reduced workers’ rights.
Among models touted in the ‘Empowering Belfast’ document are give-aways, tax breaks and further deregulation of business.
A further proposal for a Belfast Freeport should raise alarm bells. A European Commission report concluded that Freeports “could be abused for trade of counterfeit goods, money laundering and other crime if no sufficient checks are carried out to identify the owners of companies using them”, Concerns have been expressed that Boris’s Johnstone’s Freeports idea could turn the UK into the world capital of money laundering.
Previous economic initiatives aimed at redressing the structural weaknesses in our society and economy have failed to deliver. ‘Empowering Belfast’ will be no different.
Only a planned socialist economy can provide sustained economic growth, job security and guaranteed workers’ rights.
Workers at almost sixty colleges and universities throughout Northern Ireland have taken industrial action in recent days in opposition to pension cuts, pay and worsening working conditions.
The Workers Party has sent the following message of support to the University and Colleges Union
Workers Party stands with University staff and supports their just demands
The Workers Party supports the industrial action taken by UCU members over pensions, pay and working conditions. Low pay, casualisation, excessive workloads and inequality of pay are serious threats to workers and to the education system itself.
The Workers Party stands with the dedicated staff and their supporters in their just demands.
The capitalist glorification of Black Friday in conditions of rising levels of poverty and inequality suffered a blow this year when Amazon workers and their supporters went on strike and protested against Amazon’s growing power and exploitation.
On Friday, workers around the world created “Make Amazon Pay Day”. An international coalition of unions, equality and environmental groups staged a day of action.
This year alone, Amazon has been exposed as:
Reporting up to £8.2 billion of its UK sales in Luxembourg to avoid UK taxes
Requiring almost 1,000 ambulance callouts to its UK fulfilment centres since 2018, including 178 callouts to its site in Tilbury, Essex, where a male employee died this month
Sacking tech workers for speaking out in solidarity with warehouse workers’ unsafe conditions
Deploying an intrusive and pervasive system of workplace surveillance or its workers
Subjecting workers to oppressive working conditions with too few breaks, excessive and unreasonable productivity targets and an unsafe working environment.
Amazon warehouse workers have taken part in work stoppages and protests across the globe, determined to secure fair wages, fair taxes, and accountability for Amazon’s impact on the planet.
In the UK Amazon warehouses are not unionised and workers have little protection. Amazon is hostile to trade unions. It refuses to give workers basic rights or to recognise a union. While billionaire Jeff Bezos can engage in the obscenity of a “space” flight vanity project costing millions of dollars, Amazon workers can barely make ends meet and are enduring appalling conditions.
Amazon exemplifies the predatory nature of the capitalist system. Workers must make it pay.