Belfast Telegraph

Unite calls for national strike

One of the country's leading trade unions has called for a national strike to force a new government to radically re-think economic policy.

Unite, which has 60,000 members, also urged people not to back proposed budget measures, including water charges, under a campaign of civil disobedience.

Dismissing the Government's drastic four-year savings blueprint, the union said its alternative plan to hike taxes by eight billion euro and introduce a 15 billion euro investment programme would grow the economy faster.

Jimmy Kelly, Unite regional secretary, said mass marches would achieve nothing.

"We're absolutely convinced that marching the streets on Saturdays for the rest of this year and the rest of next year won't achieve the pressure that we need to put on these politicians," Mr Kelly said. "We're saying that we need to look at the alternative which is taking strike action as part of the process."

More than 50,000 people took to the streets of Dublin on Saturday to protest against the Government's austerity measures.

Mr Kelly said the public could sit passively and accept "what's thrown at us" or we can down tools and begin with a half-day work stoppage. And he said it was time to move away from the social partnership link with the Government.

The trade union movement needs to regain its independence," Mr Kelly said. "There's no doubt that over 20 years of partnership, that independence was totally diluted and abandoned."

The union is to put its strike proposal to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions but would not comment on what would happen if it was rejected. "It's about how we influence what's going to replace that current government and I'm convinced that strike action has to be part of that," the trade union leader said.

The union claims its alternative four-year plan, named the People's Budget, will grow the economy by 3.8% on average a year, compared with the Government's estimated 2.7%. The plan will see eight billion euro raised in taxes, but only high-earners would be hit next year.

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