THE OECD has warned that pay increases should be in line with productivity, but worker representatives are calling for pay rises to keep pace with inflation, which looks likely to run over 4% this year, and a further 3.5% next year.
Employers are trying to hold out for a 3% raise, whereas Cabinet Secretary Dermot McCarthy has been arguing that 5% is a more realistic figure, while the unions want more.
The IMPACT union is accusing private vested interests of trying to destroy the gains made by the union. He contended that vested interests are trying to privatise and cut back on the public service for their own personal gain.
Stephen Lyons, President of IMPACT, said that the criticism of health care as substandard is an insult to Irish workers.
He is sick of hearing talk about substandard facilities in this country. But he can be sure that he is not nearly as sick as the patients who have had to put up with the overcrowding in A&E facilities.
The fatuous denial of the existence of those substandard facilities is a much greater insult to the unfortunate people who have had to endure such conditions.
SIPTU President Jack O’Connor said that there was no way he could recommend a national wage agreement in the midst of the decentralisation controversy.
He says that only 56 of 2,500 people are willing to relocate from the 16 semi-state bodies.
This controversy has little to do with a national wage agreement, but it is obvious that the unions are going to use the issue as a kind of bargaining chip.
Mr O’Connor has pointedly noted that the matter is an industrial relations issue that is not beyond resolution.
The Government might like to suggest that decentralisation, which was first introduced by Jack Lynch’s Government in the 1960s, was undertaken in the national interest.
Unfortunately, too many aspects of the most recent round of decentralisation smacked of political opportunism, with the transfers having more to do with the constituency considerations of various ministers than the national interest.
There is no doubt about a need for pay restraint, but the government and senior civil servants are hardly in a position to afford real leadership, in the light of their behaviour in boosting their own salaries and according themselves such generous expense allowances in recent years.
The knock-on implications for the economy could be disastrous, if the talks are allowed to fail.
We could witness the return of the kind of old-style strikes that undermined economic confidence and served nobody’s interests.
It may seem altruistic to call for patriotism on all sides, but everyone will ultimately be the loser, if we return to the economic lunacy of the past.