IFJ Congress: Pay rises are the route from austerity
Frances O'Grady and David Begg at the IFJ Congress - © International Federation of Journalists
5 June 2013
IFJ World Congress
"Give Britain a pay rise," said Frances O'Grady, TUC general secretary, at the International Federation of Journalists pre-Congress session Decent Jobs, Not Austerity in Dublin.
"That is the best way to stimulate demand, win growth and get the economy moving. If we are to tackle inequality, build a fairer society and nurture a strong economy, then we need to ensure that all workers, not just the top bosses, are rewarded for their work."
Frances O'Grady joined a panel of European trade union leaders to provide an analysis of the economic crisis affecting the world – and in particular the Eurozone – and present an alternative to the neo-liberal orthodoxy of an austerity plan which has put millions out of work.
The panel, speaking to delegates representing the world press, also emphasised the role of journalists to tell the "real stories from the frontline of the battlefield of austerity" by reporting the facts and explaining the issues to readers and listeners. This is despite the attack on press freedom and the attacks on labour and trade union rights, as Patrick Itschert, deputy general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, explained.
He said it was difficult to get the message across when it was the corporations who own the press and while many journalists, also affected by the economic situation, struggle to make a living:
"There is an attack on freedom of opinion. There can be no freedom of the press if journalists have to live in a situation where they are fighting poverty."
Jim Boumelha, IFJ president, in his introduction to the session, said:
"We have to respond as citizens as well as journalists to the effects of austerity, where there is a growing gap between wages and profits, where casino capitalism has been allowed to rule and employment has become increasingly precarious."
He said that Europe had reached a high noon, as those who did not cause the crisis are now paying with their jobs.
David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, outlined the crisis for young people, with 7.5 million of them out of employment, education and training in Europe (59 per cent in Greece, 55 per cent in Spain and 30 per cent in Ireland) and 26 million overall unemployed.
"Meanwhile, European corporates are sitting on €7 trillion and still avoiding paying tax."
He said that in recent years it has been the neoliberals who have held the sway, with their oxymoronic policy of 'growth-friendly fiscal consolidation', but there were signs that this model was becoming discredited.
"If you heard a loud screech coming from Brussels, it could have been the sound of a bandwagon going into reverse; hopefully there is a realisation that austerity isn't working."
But it is the job of the trade union movement to ensure this neoliberal dogma is put to rest, he said.
Patrick Itschert said it was important that the trade union movement is united and continues to mobilise and organise the protests, such as the marches on the streets on November 14, 2012 and this March. He said:
"In order to argue for change, journalists need to provide high quality information so that citizens can make a choice."
Frances O'Grady said the TUC would be building on the marches against austerity two years ago and last autumn in the UK with a new campaign. "Our aim is to build a mass movement to fight austerity, a broad and deep coalition that brings together workers, students, pensioners, the unemployed, families, faith groups, community campaigners, parents, patients, service users and anyone and everyone who shares our conviction that cuts are not the cure."