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Lash your FAS cronies, Jack

Posted on: October 11th, 2009

Dear Jack,

Congratulations on such a successful conference last week.

Congratulations on 100 years of Siptu. Sorry you did not invite me to the celebrations. I would have enjoyed joining hands and singing The Red Flag with all the bearded brethren in late-night sessions in Tralee’s Brandon Hotel.

Congratulations on being re-elected general-president of Siptu — unanimously, of course. Are you president of Siptu for life?

Congratulations on becoming president of the Irish Congress of Trades Unions (Ictu). Are you president of Ictu for life too?

Congratulations on seizing the moral high ground in the present crisis.

Jack, we need people like you, blessed with lofty principles and loud voices in these troubled times. Leaders like you, with moral fibre. That’s leadership. Real leadership.

Some of us really look up to you, Jack. After all, even I am a member of a trade union, the National Union of Journalists. So as president, my president, I really look to you for leadership.

I depend on you to root out wrongdoing and waste, especially where it affects the public interest.

I have heard you savaging the boards of banks. I have cheered you on. I have rallied to your demands for no waste in the public sector.

I have applauded your concerns for the unemployed.

You were always a man of mettle. A perfect social partner. So Jack, you puzzled me recently.

I heard you on Matt Cooper’s Last Word programme a week ago. Matt asked you about the directors of Fas, the guardians of the unemployed, and their failure to resign when all the revelations about junketeering and waste surfaced.

You were not your usual self when Matt popped in a question about the well-heeled board squatters at Fas. You must have been a bit off-colour that day.

Matt: “Why wasn’t the board of Fas, including the trade union members, sacked earlier for their complete failure to oversee the financial waste going on by the management at Fas?”

Jack: “I think that once they declared their intention to resign, that that seems to have dealt with the matter.”

I could not believe it. Where was all the O’Connor fire and brimstone?

Matt: “But sure it’s, what, nine months after we got all the revelations?”

Jack: “Yeah and it’s much, much worse, isn’t it really, than that, Matt. Because not only is it the case that some people at the top of the public service have been found to be negligent in relation to this, but there’s other negligence — negligence that allows those at the top of the banking system and the people at the top of Anglo Irish Bank who…”

Matt: “But who’s defending that?”

Jack: “…who surely must be guilty of a great deal more, given that they’ve wrecked our economy.”

Matt: “Well, hopefully charges will be brought.”

Jack : “I wonder will they?”

Matt: “I wonder, but that’s a different issue. Does that then excuse what went on at the top of Fas on the basis that worse happened in the banks?”

Jack: “No you’re missing the point.”

What a red herring . There you were Jack, clutching at the banks as a lifeboat. Suddenly you needed them.

Jack, I always admired your willingness to fight for the downtrodden. When you see injustice, you let fly.

So your reticence was staggering. Matt must have got it wrong. The Fas board must be stuffed with paupers and the unemployed. Your inbuilt humanity was holding you back. So I looked up the names of the Fas directors. I was shattered to find that the Fas directors were a cabal of fatcats paid €14,000 a year.

The biggest shock was that some fatcats are your close comrades. The Fas fatcat who got the cream (the €24,000 a year chair) — Peter McLoone — was your predecessor as head of Ictu and is the boss of public service union Impact. Today he is your comrade-in- arms, leading good public servants into an abyss.

Peter of Fas fame was spared your vitriol.

Ditto, Fas fatcat Sally Ann Kinahan, currently assistant general-secretary at Ictu, where you are her president.

Ditto Fas fatcat Owen Wills, yet another brother on the executive council of Ictu.

Ditto Fas fatcat Alice Prendergast, nominated to the Fas board by none other than Ictu.

And finally, Des Geraghty , who was your predecessor as head of Siptu.

All five directors were nominated by Ictu. Ho-hum.

At least two of them, Peter and Owen, travelled on €7,000 Fas return tickets to Florida — business class, of course. I always believed that you guys were opponents of business-class fares. Or is that why so many union bosses refuse — on principle — to fly Ryanair? Because Michael O’Leary has no business class?

So when it comes to tackling the Fas board, Jack, you are a pussycat with wet whiskers.

Talking of which, I hope the beard did not turn white after the interview with Matt. I assume you gave it a good makeover in the brethren’s chosen top-notch Brandon Hotel in Tralee.

Hopefully you will have arranged a trim and beauty treatment. I see the brethren’s chosen venue has “tailor-made beauty treatments, massage and hydrotherapy”.

Sounds a bit like Florida.

Were Peter and Owen there? They could have shown you the ropes. All three of you would have been able to share a fraternal splash in the jacuzzi. The happy business-class duo could have recounted the joys of Florida to you while the Fas sisters, Alice and Sally Ann, retired to the Brandon’s swimming pool.

No wonder you spent a full “working” week in the Brandon. After five days there you must need a holiday.

Back to the conference. You nearly burst a blood vessel demanding strikes from the poor souls who believe that you are about to lead them back down the road to 3.5 per cent pay increases.

Tell them the truth, Jack. There is not a hope in hell of a hike in pay for two years. Stop encouraging them to confront the State. Ireland has no money.

Some in the private sector have taken a pay cut of 10 per cent already. What did you do for them? The cuts were essential, but you must not lead good teachers, nurses and gardai into believing that there is 3.5 per cent in the kitty. Few workers have picked up that part of the frozen national pay deal.

With a notable exception. Guess who has already been paid the 3.5 per cent? No, Jack, not your members.

Far closer to home, Jack. Siptu’s own employees have been paid the increase. The occupants of Liberty Hall have been favoured. Siptu has buckets of money.

Who has funded these pay rises for your union staff, Jack?

Your members.

Siptu subscriptions have risen in recent years. Your hard-pressed members’ union fees have lined the pockets of Siptu’s shop stewards and insiders.

So Jack, perhaps you could look after your members before you featherbed your own staff.

Time to abandon the moral high ground.

Your disillusioned disciple,

Shane Ross