The cost of living has risen to its highest level in twenty years. According to official figures, the rate of inflation has hit 5.3%
But even this is an underestimate. Inflation is measured by a Consumer Price Index, but key items are left out of this measure. Whereas other countries take full account of house prices, the Irish index does not. Yet people are paying higher mortgages than in the past.
This government bears a huge responsibility for the price hikes.
Energy bills have increased by a third but Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Greens have done nothing. People Before Profit asked them to cancel the carbon tax increases and to impose an immediate price cap, which they can legally do. They have refused.
In the longer run, we need to get back to a fully nationalised and not-for-profit ESB and Bord Gais. In 1996 the EU imposed a directive to 'unbundle’ energy supply. In simple language, this meant creating separate, for-profit companies for production, transmission and distribution.
The Irish government did not seek a derogation, even though the small size of the Irish market would exacerbate the worse effects of privatisation
Between 1986 and 2002, there were no price increases. But the moves to privatisation have led to price hikes for domestic consumers, a failure to make a transition to renewables and the threat of blackouts.
Rents have also shot up again by 8% this year. Yet the government is only now talking about a 2% rent cap. They have delayed long enough to allow the landlords get their increases and want to pretend to be doing something.
When government fails to stop increases in the cost of living, workers can only protect themselves by putting in a claim for a pay rise.
We should be demanding that our unions fight for a pay rise of at least 6% – otherwise, we will, effectively, be taking a pay cut.
Once you start on this route you will face two arguments.
One is that the price rises are just 'transitory’ and will recede. But there are no signs that this is happening. Meanwhile, we have to put up with huge energy price hikes.
The second line of attack is that wage increases lead to a spiral of price rises. But again, this is mistaken. The reality is that wages have been held down for years, but still inflation is rising. We did not cause it- but now we need to respond.
If we want higher wages, we will have to push hard in the unions. Public sector workers are only getting a 1% pay rise this year. They should not be stuck to an agreement that gives them a wage cut – and, bizarrely, an obligation to work for free for 'Croke Park hours’.
In the private sector, a pattern is emerging of 2.5% pay rises over a year. But this is still below the cost of living. The unions need to up their game and start fighting for their members.
If you think you should have a pay rise and want the advice of how to go about getting it, please use the link below to get in touch.
Support Day of Action on Energy Price Hikes.
People Before Profit will be holding information stalls across the 32 counties on Saturday 18th December. If you want to join these actions, also please use the link below to get in touch.
People Before Profit