Unions to seek better terms and conditions after pandemic

Worker representatives are set to seek improved terms and conditions from the government when the pandemic eases following the sacrifices and dangers faced by frontline workers.
Unions to seek better terms and conditions after pandemic
ICTU General Secretary Patricia King: “The payments by employers here into the (social) insurance fund are among the lowest for Europe. This in turn is responsible for low unemployment payments. In the end, the lack of sick pay with the pandemic also had to be covered by the State.”

Worker representatives are set to seek improved terms and conditions from the government when the pandemic eases following the sacrifices and dangers faced by frontline workers.

A special wealth tax, better sick pay and welfare supports, a universal public health system, green-proofed projects and improved wages for the lower-paid will be among the demands.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Patricia King told the Irish Examiner that union leaders are finalising a document that would be the crux of a new social dialogue agreement with employers and the state.

This pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption, but it has changed the relationship between the state, businesses and workers. The focus is now firmly on basic services from the state to society.

Ms King said at the outset of the virus spreading here, “health services quickly morphed into a universal health system".

“Our document will say you can't go back. Build a public health system that is free to use. It has to be paid for of course and our document will set out how.”

The ICTU general secretary highlightedthe huge numbers of people who have lost their jobs, a situation which shone a light on the gaps in sick pay, welfare supports and how these are funded.

“The payments by employers here into the [social] insurance fund are among the lowest for Europe. This in turn is responsible for low unemployment payments. In the end, the lack of sick pay with the pandemic also had to be covered by the State.”

Employers currently pay between 8% and 11% PRSI of weekly earnings. ICTU wants this increased.

“We under-collect taxes here. There has to be a better and more robust social insurance system,” added Ms King.

ICTU also wants higher taxes for anyone with wealth, assets or inheritance over €1 million. This should include if a family home value brings them over the million euro mark.

"It is not only wealthy individuals, but also tax supports and loopholes should be reviewed,” added Ms King.

Union leaders are also consciously aware of the public's demand for a greener society. Ms King says this should be no different for employers and the state.

“Public procurement should be green-proofed. If you are looking at a tender for buses, whether they be electric or whatever, they must be green-proofed.

What we are saying is we need to get this right. And there are huge outstanding issues, like childcare and housing. We need a new deal, we can't go back.

“People are prepared to pay for this, as opposed to getting small tax cuts. This would be more valuable to workers than a few pence at the end of the year [in tax cuts],” said Ms King in reference to Fine Gael pre-election promises.

A living wage for lower earners must also form part of a new deal, as must the recognition of joint labour committees and the right to collective bargaining in the workplace, added the ICTU leader.

Unions for nursing, trade, hospitality and low wage workers have fed into the new deal document.

“The new government is going to have to talk to key stakeholders in the economy. Workers have shown their worth and value in society,” added Ms King.

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