State asset sales will hamper economic recovery, says IMPACT

Thursday 9th Mary 2013

Troika demands to sell Ireland’s state assets could jeopardise economic recovery and should be ignored by the Government, according to IMPACT. Speaking at the union’s Services and Enterprises conference in Portlaoise today (Thursday) the union’s national secretary Matt Staunton said sales of assets like Aer Lingus and Coillte would raise little cash in the current climate and could jeopardise connectivity, foreign inward investment and tourism.

Mr Staunton said Ireland had an abysmal record of state asset sales. The sale of 20 state companies since 1990 had raised little cash while the disastrous Eircom privatisation had damaged Ireland’s connectivity and competitiveness. “In the communications age, the state forfeited any influence over our telecoms infrastructure to the cost of our economy, the prospects of companies large and small and, ultimately jobs and growth. This lesson should be learned, not ignored,” he said.

Mr Staunton said state assets should only be sold if they could raise significan“The record of this State is not good on either count. Some 20 state companies have been sold since the sale of Greencore, in 1990. The sale of 19 of them hardly raised a billion in cash. And this in much better and more confident economic times.

“The twentieth was the sale of Eircom. This netted a few billion after the stockbrokers and agents took their massive share in fees. Subsequent owners – or should I say asset strippers – got busy leaving us with a shell of a company nominally in charge of a crucial element of our economy – communications and interconnectivity.” t amounts of money for the exchequer and improve services and economic performance.

Mr Staunton said plans to sell the Government’s stake in Aer Lingus entailed the same risks. “Again, the connectivity of an island nation – heavily dependent on tourism and foreign direct investment – is at risk. I call upon the Government, if they are serious about growing our economy, not to do something stupid that could permanently turn us into a remote and there-to-be-ignored region of Europe,” he said.

The conference adopted motions opposing the sale of state assets, including Coillte forest harvesting rights. IMPACT has run a campaign against the Coillte sale on the basis that it would restrict public access to forests, threaten thousands of rural jobs, and undermine environmental and forestry standards.

Meanwhile, the chair of the IMPACT Services and Enterprises Division Paddy Quinn called on the Government to keep its promise to reform the law on employees’ rights to engage in collective bargaining. “I believe we will win this fight. I believe we will see legislation this year – the year that we commemorate the 1913 lockout, which was itself a dispute about the right to be represented by a union. I am confident that we will eventually win the right to be represented by the union of your choice in this country,” he said.

IMPACT’s Services and Enterprises division represents workers in commercial and non-commercial semi-state organisations, private companies in telecoms and aviation, and the voluntary sector.