Sean Sherlock: 'an affront'

A LABOUR Party TD has challenged his party's relationship with trade unions and launched a scathing attack on the unions' plan for days of protest and strike action.

In an unprecedented move, Cork East TD Sean Sherlock has criticised the unions for building up "war chests" and called for an "assessment of the linkage" between them and his party. He claims that relationship was largely ignored by the unions when they had "a direct line to Bertie Ahern... during the halcyon days of social partnership".

Sherlock, who succeeded his father Joe – a former Siptu official – to the Dáil, told the Sunday Tribune that he is "vehemently opposed" to the idea of a strike or national day of protest by trade unions. It would be "an affront to anybody who does not have a job and is struggling," he said.

He also admitted that if the Labour party gets into power, "we can't bury our heads in the sand and we will need to actively deal with the public- sector wage bill. What I am trying to do is to nail this lie that we [the Labour Party] only represent workers who are members of trade unions.

"Yes, there is a strong link between Labour and the trade-union movement. But to my mind that link was weakened over the last number of years by the fact that trade union movement, during the halcyon days of social partnership had a direct line to Bertie Ahern and didn't need the Labour Party... the unions largely ignored the party when they had the link with Bertie.

"While I believe in the link with the trade-union movement, I believe that it is incumbent on the Labour Party to represent all workers, both private and public and maybe it is time we had a qualitative assessment of this linkage."

He said he was uncomfortable with the idea that the unions will spend "€1.3m of a war chest" fighting cuts as their members lose their jobs. Some of this money should be used to help recently unemployed members, he said.