Pay agreements for low earners, the banking crisis and job creation will be top of the agenda for trade unionists this week.
Up to 800 delegates, guests and observers from Ireland and abroad will attend the biennial conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in Killarney.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will give a keynote address tonight, with general secretary David Begg due to tackle Mr Kenny on the issue of JLCs – plans to reform wage-setting rules for lower-paid jobs like hospitality and security.
Mr Begg said the conference was taking place at a unique juncture in the movement’s history and finds it in robust good health, despite the very challenging conditions of the last two years.
Congress represents 800,000 people working in both the private and public sectors north and south of the border and is the largest civil society body on the island.
More than 40 motions dealing with the economic crisis, the bank bailout, job creation, improved rights in the workplace, the future of the European Union (EU) and the Middle East will be debated during the week.
A new report on the structures of the Irish trade union movement with a view to ensuring it is best-placed to meet the challenges of the future will also be discussed.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Sister Stanislaus Kennedy of the Immigrant Council of Ireland and Sharan Burrow, head of the global International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) – which represents over 175 million workers in 150 countries – will also address delegates over the coming days.
Earlier, Mr Gilmore confirmed the cabinet was discussing the proposals on JLCs and the outcome of the discussions that have taken place with unions and with employers.
“The cabinet will make a decision on that,” he said.
“It has been and is the case that there has is agreement in Government that there is a necessity to reform the JLC system, and I think that is something that’s widely accepted.”
Mr Gilmore said the Government has always been willing to engage with the trade unions and employer organisations about the future of industrial relations in the country.
The Labour Party leader also indicated any social partnership agreement would not be the same as what was in place during the boom years.
“I think that there has to be an understanding which is about getting us to the point of recovery and which ensures that there is a stable industrial relations climate in the country,” the Tanaiste added.
“In order for that to happen I think there has to be discussions with trade unions and discussions with employers.”