Monday, 9 November 2009

Balanced media?

Slí Eile: Scaring? Balanced? A sample of headlines from the Sunday papers last weekend

FW: Main Headlines Today's Newspapers Sunday 8 November, 2009

Tax hikes ' will exile well paid'

Private sector snubbed the protest

Civil Service ' privilege day' perks escape axe

The tides that can pull us back from the brink
What did Friday's day of action achieve for all the rest of us?
Public sector protest had already fallen at Frontline
Stop talking, it's time for action

State pay cheques for the protesters will bounce by March unless Cowen does what he has to do
Willingness to scarifice jobs shows what's important to union barons

Top brains shun Ireland as smart economy withers

War in the workplace
Health spend faces €1bn cut in budget
Revenue denies ICTU claim of €1.8bn in uncollected taxes

No room to manoeuvre- the economy
Cabinet Unites as spending cuts loom
Unions try to delay the evil hour - piece about teacher unions
OECD highlights need to tackle interest groups
Urgent need to stabilise income tax rates
Public service world is different from the rest of society
Country's fate cannot be left to special interests
More must pay their share of income tax

Unions face backlash as pay cuts now inevitable
Workers in 54 state bodies earn average of €70k salary

Contradictions of trade unions are untenable

Union assertions do not make sense, and neither does dithering
Union splits delay deal on pay cuts
ICTU and the wailers- piece on the economy
Put anger to one side. We all have to change
Cutting state jobs will save the public sector


Proposition Joe said...

For balance, here's a rip-roaring piece in the Trib from Brendan Ogle of UNITE:

"Why we need a national strike. And why it won't happen"

"Penal" tax rates, no less. Mild chiding too on the six-figure salaries of the union nomenklatura.

Anonymous said...

@Joe - you've missed a golden opportunity to say nothing....!

27 news pieces and ALL the headlines were anti-public sector, to varying degrees. With the intellectual range from absolutely demented, at one extreme, to cherry picked stats and evident bias against the PS at the other extreme.

And you think ONE opinion piece from Brendan Ogle is evidence of balance?? Maybe I'm missing something but he's surely not the most influential commentator in the state? Is he?

Thanks for posting this Slí Eile - it's sobering to see clearly the contours of hegemony management regarding the PS and public finances.

Marise said...

@Prop Joe,

I must say you really have it in for the public sector unions. Almost all of your comments here are about how they will ruin it for the rest of us.

But they are the strongest unions. It's much easier for the private sector to union-bust, because they are not accountable to the electorate. While strong public sector unions exist, everyone's labour rights have a better chance of surviving. And since most of us aren't execs, managers, or entrepreneurs, a large segment of the population benefits.

Are some union leaders corrupt and overpaid? You betcha. Power attracts the unscrupulous (dare I say sociopathic?). But politics attracts them too, and I see a corrupt, cronyist, dogmatic government with its fair share of them. Those guys have much more power over my quality of life than any union leader, were I a member or not. And they don't even get a dishonourable mention in your posts.

I am not clear on your characterisation of the mass of the public sector, but here's mine: full of himans with all their flaws, but willing to do jobs like maintain sewers, pick up my rubbish, teach the kids, put out the fire in my house and rescue anyone inside, pursue the dangerous criminal, and get me a bedpan when I need it. I really don't think that they are trying to ask for any compensation that is unreasonable for those types of jobs; I want them happy and well-paid.

I also don't think that they are trying to keep others from being hired; ask any teacher or nurse or Garda if they think staffing levels are adequate. I think your assertion in this regard is at odds with their statements. The thing is, they do not accept that staffing levels OR pay should be cut. And if you value nurses, teachers, policemen, firefighters, etc. you shouldn't accept that your services be compromised either.

I think we could do without a Dail myself. :-) What kind of savings could we realise there?

Proposition Joe said...


"you've missed a golden opportunity to say nothing"


But wouldn't it be a dull blog indeed if all comments parrotted the same line?

On the media bias, which did more damage to the public sector's cause do you think - the 27 propogandist pieces, or the one article providing an insight into Mr. Ogle's thinking?

Proposition Joe said...


I've no doubt that individual public servants would prefer neither pay nor staffing levels to be cut.

But its clear that their union leaders are working up to trade off the one agin' the other in a very cynical way, given their prior pronouncements about protecting jobs and maintaining service levels.

They are the strongest unions, that much is clear. But do you think their record shows that they've used that strenght for the common good (as per their own rethoric), or even in their own members' long-term interests?

Anonymous said...

@Joe - 'twould be a dull blog if everyone agreed with everyone else. Kinda like the media here - everyone agrees with everyone else. It has one upside: no need to spend money on the papers anymore 'cos I know in advance what their commentary is going to be....

Granted Ogle is not the most, ahem, "attractive" union leader, but isn't giving him a pedestal not an example of how the media get to referee the "debate" as well as pick the players and then change the rules half way through the match.

The Tribune could have picked any one of a number of well informed commentators who could provide a lucid critique of the current consensus and who, moreover, could suggest tenable alteratives to retrenchment etc. I'm sure some of the folk behind this blog would be happy to oblige; Michael Taft springs to mind. But engaging with alternative perspectives would require a bit of rigour and less then shallow thought - and journos don't like thinking and rigour, as a rule, particularly in the afternoon after a few pints.

So, the Trib gives Ogle a piece for a laugh and to convience themselves that they are providing balance while continuing on with their unrelenting support for the anti-union, anti-worker and anti-public sector propaganda onslaught that's into its second year and getting stronger....

Marise said...

@Prop Joe,

The union leaders will definitely be in a "no-new-hire / no pay cut" mode whether or not that's their plan, because the hiring freezes are already there and have not been put on the table by them as froze it. So the only thing they have to talk about is pay levels and not losing more jobs.

Would they still go the way you state had they actually the option? Maybe. Is Dave-o thinking of little ol' me while he sits there? I don't flatter myself.

This I do know: while there are strong unions in a given polity, the private sector race to the bottom is held in check. When those unions are toast, labour rights deteriorate. That has a direct effect on the majority within said polity. Rights improve the majority's the quality of life, which means there is at least an indirect effect on the whole population.

I've lived in both scenarios. Ireland is having an argument about labour similar to the one experienced 30 years ago in the US. Over there, people like IBEC and yourself won out, and I'm here to warn yall that it's rather sucky - at least if you care about equality, services, living wage, etc. If you think those things don't have much bearing, or weigh less in the balance than investors, banks, profits, then sure. Hack away. There will be some winners, but it won't be the middle class.

Anonymous said...

You missed the Irish Independent one, which ran "Only change after day of protest is we owe 70m more". Note the we.

Also, Irish Times: "Change to cuts strategy ruled out as protests seek 'fairer' way". Note the scare quotes around fairer.

Proposition Joe said...


The facts simply do not support this idea of the public sector unions acting as a vanguard carving out the workers' rights and entitlements for all.

The reality is that public sector union campaigns are almost always narrowly focussed on gains solely for their own members, with little or no cross-over application to anyone else.

Consider the recent nurses strike for a 35 hour working week. This campaign didn't aim to reform the Organisation of Working Time Act, rather it was all about a shorter week for the strikers themselves, and they alone.

In fact, the sheer cost of the extraordinarily generous arrangements that the public sector unions have won for their members make it much *less* likely that similar entitlements could ever be extended to the rest of the workforce. For example, the main reason state baulks at providing any sort of guarantee for private sector pensions is because its up to its eyes in debt to its own employees, with over 100 billion in contingent liabilities for future public sector pensions.

Anonymous said...

@ Joe - the above is a little disingenuous. For a start, the purpose of a union is to represent its members and to win advances for them, and them alone. That shouldn't be too controversial.

But, secondly, the union movement should be committed to maximising its membership across all sectors of the economy. However, wider socio-economic concerns come after representing union members, although the two are linked and a clear distinction between the interests of members of X union and the interests of workers generally can't always be drawn.

Its clear that the Irish unions, as part of the Partnership process, accepted a passive role regarding expansion into the private sector so as noT to deter foreign investment. The argument, such as it is, being that multinationals don't want to deal with unions, if they can help it, and if they can't, then they want passive unions. The Irish union movement largely acquiesced.

But to return to your attempted rebuttal of Marise's point the facts do point to unions as the only bulwark protecting workers' rights. A non-union worker benefits from better protections, conditions and sometimes pay in an economy where unions have a structurally important influence. The example of workers' conditions in the US is a salutary example of where we could be headed is the unions are "busted". And the latter goal is slowly but perceptibly emerging from the mists as the key objective of the current anti-union discourse.

Proposition Joe said...


You haven't presented any evidence of Irish unions acting as a bulwark against the erosion of worker's rights. The US example isn't that relevant, as the federal government doesn't adopt the same intraventionist approach on labour issues as does the EU.

In fact in the modern era almost all across-the-board advances in Irish workers' rights were imposed by the EU, with little or no union involvement.

Where the Irish unions do get involved in asserting these rights, its often to abuse the mechanism for narrow gains, thereby undermining and discrediting the whole legislative edifice. Consider for example the recent case brought by the CPSU under equal-pay legislation, claiming that civilian clerical officers (who happen to be predominantely women) should be paid the same as sworn officers of the Garda Síochána (who happen to be predominantly men) just because some individual Gardaí happen to be desk-bound. How does that sort of stroke help the plight of female workers who are being genuinely discriminated against?