A "good Christmas present for the people of Northern Ireland" – Sammy Wilson, Finance Minister
Members of NIPSA, Northern Ireland’s largest public service trade union, are holding protests today, Friday 17 December, over huge spending cuts in Northern Ireland.
Earlier this week, the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson announced a draft budget proposal, which will see a draconian £4bn worth of cuts. At estimated 3,000 – 4,000 jobs are due to made in the health service.
In presenting the proposals Mr Wilson described the deal as a "good Christmas present for the people of Northern Ireland"!
A protest held earlier this week by the Stop The Cuts Alliance, in which the Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) participates, was broadcast on Ulster Television news.
Assembly parties agree on CUTS, CUTS, CUTS
The cuts are coming – and the parties in the Assembly are not standing in their way – they have agreed that they will implement them, not oppose them.
One after another, all the parties in the Assembly Executive are queueing up to identify where cuts can be made – cut education spending, privatise the Housing Executive, close hospitals, sell off Belfast Harbour, increase household rates for ordinary workers, cut civil service workers pay, introduce water charges…
None of the parties are prepared to stand up to the cuts agenda and demand that those who are responsible for the economic crisis – the wealthy stock market speculators, the billionaire bankers, bosses and capitalists – pay for their crisis. It is workers who are taking all the pain. 230 workers at the Bank of Ireland in the North are to be sacked yet Bank of Ireland chief executive Brian Goggin was paid over €3million last year, after receiving a massive bail-out!
The scale of the cuts will destroy at least 50,000 jobs in Northern Ireland – in both the public and private sector. £1billion will be taken out of the economy in the form of cuts to benefits alone. The cuts will hit the poorest households the most, but the richest are not feeling anything. All the parties in the Assembly are in favour of cutting tax on big business and are prepared to make extra cuts to public services in order to do so. There has been no hint from any of the politicians of making big business pay their rates in full. Big companies in Northern Ireland only pay one-third of what they should in rates. Workers are subsidising big business millions in unpaid rates, yet if we cannot find the money to pay our rates we are thrown in front of a judge!
For a one-day Public Sector Strike
The trade unions must set a date and build for a one-day public sector strike as a first step in building mass resistance to ALL cuts. The cuts can be stopped if workers were fully mobilised in general strike action. Medical secretaries recently forced management in the Belfast Health Trust to retreat from enforcing redundancies and cutting pay, by organising militant protests and voting overwhelmingly for strike action. Management have not yet fully withdrawn all their attacks, but it is a small example of how workers taking action can make a difference. Motions calling on the trade unions to co-ordinate ballots for a one-day public sector strike should be passed in every union branch representing public sector workers.
We need our own political voice
Workers and the unemployed are facing huge cuts from the parties in the Assembly. Threats to cut civil service workers pay should dash any doubts anybody might have had that the parties in the Assembly represent us. There is no party in the Assembly or on local councils fighting the cuts and speaking up for the interests of workers – Catholic and Protestant. It is intolerable that the leaders of the trade unions – which unite more than 220,000 members – continue to stand back and leave right-wing and sectarian parties a free run in elections. The trade union leaders must take steps to support the formation of a new mass political party which can unite the working class against the cuts agenda of all the parties in the Assembly. The Socialist Party will be standing candidates next May in the local and Assembly elections to put a socialist alternative to the shared right-wing policies of the Assembly parties and will strive to develop a political opposition to the cuts.