Ireland: Vote ‘No’ to anti-worker, pro-big business Lisbon Treaty

Joe Higgins MEP & Bob Crow (General Secretary, RMT) address Dublin public meeting

Around 100 people attended a public meeting on the Lisbon Treaty, in Dublin, on 18 August, addressed by Joe Higgins Socialist Party MEP, Bob Crow (General Secretary, RMT union), as well as Jimmy Kelly (Regional Secretary, Unite union) and Mary-Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin). The meeting in Liberty Hall was organised by the broad-based “Vote No to Lisbon” campaign. The referendum will be held on 2 October.

Joe Higgins focused on how the Lisbon Treaty would further open up education, healthcare and public services to the market and privatisation with potentially devastating consequences.

Bob Crow emphasized the blatant anti-worker, pro-big business nature of the European Union. Using the example of British Airways’ OpenSkies and the Irish Ferries disputes, where both companies set up new operations abroad to take advantage of lower wage rates to undermine the pay and conditions of their workers, Bob Crow pointed out that the Lisbon Treaty would enshrine those practices in European law. Significantly, it was under European “anti-competition” laws that the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) was prevented by the British High Courts from striking to defend pay and conditions.

A similar ruling by the European Court of Justice said it was illegal for workers in Sweden to strike against the Latvian construction company Laval, who were required to only pay the Swedish minimum wage and not the existing wage agreements for immigrant workers from Latvia “posted” to Sweden. The ECJ rulings in favour of big business completely undermine and contradict the arguments of the Irish establishment and Labour and trade union leaders who argue that Lisbon represents a ‘step forward’ for workers’ rights.

Not allow struggles to be channelled into nationalism

Bob and Joe pointed out that it was extremely important not to allow struggles to defend jobs and pay to be focused into nationalist channels. The significance of the Lindsey Oil Refinery struggle in Britain was emphasised, which showed that by putting forward a genuine programme demanding decent pay, conditions and jobs for all, nationalist and racist slogans and ideas can be cut across.

Joe Higgins also outlined how the Lisbon Treaty would give a huge impetus to the militarisation of the EU, by demanding that all member states “undertake to progressively increase their military capabilities”. No such demands exist for health or education!

A second No vote in the Irish referendum would send a powerful message to the politicians and bosses of Europe that workers will not accept attacks on their living standards. The Socialist Party in Ireland (CWI) is part of the broad anti-Lisbon campaign but we will also be organising its own campaigning activities and initiatives. The Lisbon vote will be a great opportunity for the Socialist Party to debate and discuss with working class people and to put forward our alternative of a socialist Europe that works in the interests of the majority of working people and young in Europe, not in the interests of the market.

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August 2009