Unions are prepared to enter a new ‘pact’

A SENIOR figure in the trade union movement has said that, in spite of the collapse of social partnership, unions are prepared to enter into a new “framework or pact” with employers and the Government in the face of the economic crisis.

IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody said that while the Croke Park deal on public service reform was an agreement between employers and staff, it was not a social partnership agreement.

“Nevertheless, IMPACT was and remains a supporter of social partnership,” he told delegates at his union’s conferences in Tralee.

“We can and should be self-critical about past experience of social partnership. Over time, we became too deeply embedded with the system.

“We ended up endorsing Government policies that we had no influence on or, at times, no real understanding of. Members got this 100-page booklet which was, by-and-large, a programme for government that a lot of us never worked for and we endorsed it because we liked the money. We got sucked into that process and we should learn from the lessons of that.”

Mr Cody said IMPACT and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions believe there is a need for a framework or pact to get the country out of the current crisis.

“In such a new approach, all sides — government, unions, employers and the other social actors — need to be able to retain their independence,” he said.

“That implies a more focused, slimmer outcome. We are not advocating the low-level social dialogue mentioned in the media where we say ‘howya’ on the street, but a more serious engagement for the public and private sectors to get the country out of the mess it’s in.”

Ireland’s 22-year-old system of social partnership effectively fell apart in December 2009, after the then government announced that talks with the public-sector trade unions on an agreed method of securing a €1 billion reduction in the public pay bill had failed.

At that point the government introduced an across- the-board pay cut for all public servants.


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