This is the second set of budgetary recommendations that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has issued during the Covid-19 pandemic, the most severe global health crisis in living memory. Due to the enormous personal and communal efforts made since March 2020, as well as the unprecedented international cooperation to develop vaccinations, we have been able to lift many of the most restrictive measures.
No going back
We are reopening society and the economy, step by step, but with a long way to go yet. It is clear that we are not going back to the way things were – and there should be ‘no going back to the old economic model. The indispensability of basic public services and of the welfare state was brought into sharp focus and we need a ‘new deal’ or new economic model to ensure a safe and secure future for all.
The pandemic exposed the deep flaws and failings of our pre-pandemic economic model. From the additional demands, it imposed on the already over-stretched health workforce in under-funded hospitals, to those on low pay and with precarious terms and conditions suffering most in the workplace, to the immediate recognition of the inadequacy of the social welfare system for the hundreds of thousands made redundant.
Despite the positive trajectory of many economic indicators over recent years the previous economic model let many people down – for example, children and young people in crowded classrooms and lecture theatres, sick people on waiting lists, and young couples unable to set up their own homes.
And it did not equip us with the tools, principally proper collective bargaining and social dialogue, which would enable us to address the many employment challenges we face.
These challenges include the need to transition to zero 5 greenhouse gas emissions in a just and fair way, adapting to rapid technological change at work, minimising the impact of Brexit, reducing precariousness at work and inequality, and developing a new economic and industrial strategy as the old tax avoidance-based FDI strategy comes under threat.
The pandemic has made us aware of our inter-dependence on each other, of the importance of effective political structures at all levels, and of the need for better public services and public goods. If we are to truly recover from the pandemic, deal with its long-term consequences, and rise to the challenges and responsibilities we face, we will have to work together, improve how we do so, and build better public services and goods, nationally and internationally. Congress advocates for a radical progressive vision for Ireland’s economy and society. ICTU’s Budget 2022 recommendations – For a Fairer Future – set out our key priorities for the short and medium-term to this end. Now is the time to invest in our people, our public services, and our public infrastructure.
There can be no return to the failed policies of austerity. We look forward to engaging with the Government and with other stakeholders to achieve these goals.
Patricia King General Secretary, Irish Congress of Trade Union
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