Siptu president Jack O’Connor has said trade unions need to stop “impeding” the progress of companies that are willing to engage in collective bargaining which benefits their members.
At the Mother Jones Festival in Cork, Mr O’Connor said the concept needs to be “debunked” that “it is in some way our role to provide an antagonistic voice against management in those businesses and institutions which recognise their employee’s right to organise and be represented by trade unions”.
Mr O’Connor said that such thinking is fundamentally flawed, as unions’ task is optimise the quality and the security of members’ employment in those businesses. He added that unions should seek to enhance productivity and innovation rather than getting in the way of it.
He added that unions “sometimes find ourselves impeding the prospects for an enterprise that engages in collective bargaining instead of actually enhancing them” while failing to confront those who do not respect workers’ rights.
Mr O’Connor also said trade unions should seek to influence the political “centre ground” — an apparent move away from its Labour support. He said there had been an increasing diffusion of political representation on the left and therefore there was a need for a more nuanced approach.
“Our political activity should focus on shifting the entire fulcrum of the debate in society in a manner which prioritises human considerations and egalitarian objectives as distinct from promoting one political party,” said Mr O’Connor. “The aim must be to frame the architecture of the political ‘centre ground’.”
Mr O’Connor said that was entirely within the capacity of the trade union movement, “though it cannot be undertaken successfully by any single trade union”.
He referenced the moves in recent years to form a more united movement and said such co-ordination would optimise the prospects for the negotiation of the best possible agreements with employers who respect workers’ rights.
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