IBEC and unions — the watchdogs that didn’t bark

DESPITE the Taoiseach clinging tenaciously to the concept, the principal stakeholders of social partnership have been reduced to empty rhetoric and the threat of disruption that will be seen in due course to resolve nothing.

Social partnership has demonstrated some focus, coherence and purpose when the objective was merely to divide incremental perceived wealth. But there appears to be no scope for partnership when there is no wealth to divide, hence the grandstanding.

The publication of the Comptroller & Auditor General’s second special report into Fás undermines the authenticity of IBEC and the trade unions as social partnership stakeholders to the point where this concept has probably run its course.

IBEC calls for moderation in government spending and a reduction in wages and welfare. But when senior IBEC personnel sat on the board of Fás and they had the opportunity to practise what they now preach, they failed to do so. An increase in state funding of 45% was provided between 2000 and 2007 while the numbers on the live register increased by 20.3% to 170,376 and the number unemployed increased by 14.6% to 93,400.

What moral authority does IBEC now have with respect to these matters when it did not put its personal footprint on moderating government spending when it was in a position directly to do so?

Potential savings of €400 million could have been possible during an era when there was effectively full employment, without unduly compromising the overall intended impact.

The trade union movement is heavily embedded throughout Fás and the evidence of its very limited competence to oversee that agency is now tragically clear.

The trade union movement has lost tens of thousands of subscribing members. A consequence of social partnership is that Ireland ranked second last this year in terms of labour cost competitiveness throughout the EU-27.

Our cost competitiveness has eroded by 23% since 1998, according to harmonised competitiveness indicators produced by the European Central Bank. The average deterioration of labour cost competitiveness throughout the EU-27 was 4.4%. Slovakia is the only member state with a poorer showing. Germany and Austria have made a significant improvement in their labour cost competitiveness since 1998

The moral of this is that any prospective social partnership process firstly has to be about the creation of wealth, the enhancement of productivity and increasing output. If there is a shared perspective about this, the issue of wealth distribution can then be considered from a secure foundation. This country must never trust the myopia of a Ponzi-like construction bubble ever again, propogated by self-serving bankers.

Myles Duffy

Bellevue Ave


Co Dublin

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