A week is a long time in politics. A century is therefore much much longer. One of the great traditions of the many strands of the left was that the right to organize and to engage in collective action should be respected, both for individuals and groups. People have , literally, died for this right, three of them in the 1913 Lockout in Dublin. There are parts of the world where union membership is a dangerous , costly business.
Ireland’s finances are in a mess. The decision of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland to reject, in a democratic open vote, the Haddington Road Agreement will not make a jot of difference to this. The total savings of the agreement are calculated at €300m, which is a lot to thee and me but not a lot in the context of say the €100b we have poured into the banking mess.
We now have the strange situation where the Labour Party, the direct lineal descendent of the organizers of the 1913 lockout, are going to proceed to implement a policy whereby ASTI members will be financially penalized MERELY for being members of that union. Two teachers, doing exactly the same work, will now be treated differently by their employer just because they are members of different unions. ASTI members will be locked out of any existing contractual incremental raises which non-ASTI members will be eligible to get ; Non-ASTI members will eventually get any pay cuts imposed restored, ASTI members will not ; There are other issues which amount to discrimination simply on the grounds of union membership. We don’t allow discrimination, overt calculated legally binding discrimination, on the grounds of race. Why on this?
Two questions emerge : First, what is the constitutional position of this discrimination? Second, how happy (as opposed to acquiescent) are members of the labour party with this?
I guess things have moved on. In 1913 James Nolan, Michael Byrne and John Byrne died at the hands of officials on account of their membership of the ITGWU. Now they would just be fiscally punished. Conflating Pat King with Captain Swing may be rhythmical but its not logical. Punishing people for expressing their democratic views is unfair. From the political perspective this is the equivalent of the murder of the Duc D’Enghein – worse than a crime, it is a blunder. And its chilling – what is the next step? To impose extra taxation on people who reside in particular constituencies because they vote against the government? To cut the wages of those who are members of non-government political parties? Or those who are non-members? Fining people for not cheering when government ministers sweep by? Penalising union members just for being union members is rolling back 150 years of social democracy. That it is a so-disant social democratic party doing so shows how utterly corrupting is power.