herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

It's war as FG faces wrath of the unions

Fine Gael and the unions are locked in a war before next Friday's election.

The country's largest trade unions are urging members to 'Vote Left' in next week's election after Fine Gael pledged to take them on for their contribution in the economic crisis.

While unions have in the past asked members not to vote Fianna Fail due to ongoing industrial disputes, it is the first time they have organised a sustained campaign of opposition to Fine Gael.

And now they are mobilising their members to back the left, and particularly Labour, in Friday's ballot.

The move will pour fuel on the fire in the increasingly bitter war of words between Fine Gael and Labour as Eamon Gilmore tries to put a halt to Enda Kenny's increasing chances of single-party government.

Up until recently, it had seemed likely that the next government would be a Fine Gael and Labour coalition, but the differences in policies and opinions between the parties are growing so vast it seems difficult to see them finding any common ground.

Now union leaders are warning of the "dangers" of voting for Fine Gael, and handing powerful support to Labour.

The move comes after Fine Gael declared on its website and in election leaflets that it would take on "vested interests" such as bankers, developers and unions which, it said, had contributed to the current economic crisis.

UNITE and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) have sent urgent messages to members not to vote Fine Gael.

The largest union, SIPTU, which has more than 200,000 members, has declared itself in favour of Labour and parties that "support principles of social solidarity".

Mandate, the union for 45,000 bar and retail workers, is not a Labour Party affiliate but has encouraged members to vote for parties and independent candidates "of the left".

And the leader of the trade union movement, David Begg, has also threatened to "advise" the Irish Congress of Trade Unions' 600,000 members of the Fine Gael position and demanded the election material be withdrawn.

But Mr Kenny has refused to back down on his claims that the unions represented a vested interest group.

cfeehan@herald.ie

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