Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan was officially elected as president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) at its biennial delegate conference, which took place in Belfast earlier this week.
Setting out his vision for the future of ICTU during his term as president, Kevin outlined five key pillars including reimagining the role of the State post Covid.
He also called for a renewed commitment to ensuring a brighter future for workers, strengthened collective representation rights, actions to build a stronger trade union movement, and the development of trade union organisation in emerging economic sectors.
Speaking at the ICTU conference, he stressed the need to develop a coordinated, alternative to austerity in the national and European response to the pandemic, which has caused people “to question the orthodoxy of the last forty years.”
“We will only ensure that there is no going back if we plan and prepare. I believe the foundations on which the trade union movement can flourish include adopting a clear strategic direction, communicating with one voice, delivering an education and outreach programme within and across communities all over this island, and reinforcing our structures at local level.
“Let’s harness our trade union values, and the solidarity within our uniquely all island movement, to lead the way to a changed Ireland. We live in exciting times, full of possibility and opportunity, and we've an urgent responsibility to ensure we emerge from the pandemic with better jobs, better lives and a better planet,” he said.
He said the weakest protections among the wealthier societies of Europe exposed the insecurities that were the daily reality for hundreds of thousands of workers across the continent.
“We emerge from this crisis with more pride and unity than we did in the awful period of 2008-2011. The inspiring bravery of health staff and frontline workers across all sectors and the can-do flexibility of thousands pushed into new ways of working overnight,” he said.
Kevin also highlighted the importance of the ‘no going back’ campaign and defined it as a practical blueprint for embedding the principles of the pandemic response into the country’s economic and social model beyond the emergency and asked for the trade unions movement’s support for the same to make ‘no going back’ a reality for every worker across the island.
Kevin further called for an expansion of employer PRSI contributions, taxes on wealth, and “meaningful financial deterrence for environmentally-damaging activities.” He said this would provide adequate funding to provide “decent public services worthy of a wealthy European nation.”
The current employer social contributions in both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland are way below the norms of other advanced European nations, and consequently the spending on public services is far less because of it.
An ICTU vice-president since 2015, Kevin was elected as chair of its Public Services Committee in 2019. He led the trade union side in the negotiations that resulted in the Building Momentum agreement earlier this year.
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