Siptu president Jack O’Connor has emphatically denied that he and employers are engaged in a new national agreement which would involve an “incomes policy”.
The union leader was responding to an article in a Sunday newspaper, which said he and the head of employers’ body Ibec, Danny McCoy, had spoken of the need for a national agreement featuring an “incomes policy”.
The article also said that Mr O’Connor had “stressed the benefits of an incomes policy which would establish a norm for wage increases, allied to a structure for resolving disputes”.
The Sunday Business Post also featured an interview with Mr McCoy, in which he said an incomes policy “makes sense” and that “anchoring wage expectations is important”.
“We are just saying that if you want to try to sort out these industrial disputes, you are going to need to have some agreement on how income tax is going to be changed, how social welfare is going to be changed and... in the same conversations saying ‘guys, here is what’s happening out there, the norm is 2%, its not 7%’,” Mr McCoy was quoted as saying.
Last night, Mr O’Connor was adamant about his position.
“I am not pushing for any kind of incomes policy whatsoever,” he said. “What we need is to increase wages in the economy so as to begin to restore people’s living standards but also to grow consumption which accounts for more than 50% of GDP.
“I do acknowledge a national wage agreement would be in the national interest. I do acknowledge it would be probably in the interests of most workers, particularly those who are not in unions.
“But it is decidedly not in the interest of trade unions because the negotiation is conducted at a level that is so remote from workers and because when you arrive at some kind of one-size- fits-all, inevitably people who can do better are restricted by it.”
Mr O’Connor said employers had walked away from the national wage agreement in 2009 “when it suited them”.
He said the employers were now looking down the barrel of a wage claim explosion and were trying to control how much would be paid out.
“We are arguing for pay increases across the private sector so that workers can recover some lost ground,” he said. “The last thing we need in Ireland is a restriction on wage growth.”
Mr O’Connor did confirm that he and Ibec would be in favour of a mechanism for resolving complex disputes.
“I have been lobbying wherever I can get people to listen to me, for some kind of sophisticated mechanism to deal with complex and difficult disputes, something like the old Employer Labour Conference or more recently the National Implementation Body or such as the initiative which was employed in the recent Dublin Bus dispute,” he said.
“The reason I am arguing for it is that I don’t think workers should have to run the gauntlet on all the suffering and all the danger that engaging in industrial action or strike action would entail to protect their pension schemes or secure their entitlements otherwise.”
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