30 June 2008

No Deal involving Pay Cuts

Ireland's trade union leaders, arriving for today's pay talks at Government Buildings in Dublin, have warned that there will be no deal involving pay cuts.

Trade unions, employers and the government are attempting to reach a new National Wage Agreement amid growing concern about the worsening economic situation.

John Douglas (left), General Secretary of the Mandate trade union, said that his members in low-paid sectors could not afford cuts in salaries, as prices for food and fuel continued to rise.

Unions also warned that any cutbacks in services, particularly health and education, would be deal breakers.

Larry Broderick of the Irish Bank Officials Association acknowledged that there were challenges in the economy, but said that workers were being subjected to a pre-emptive strike by employers and the government.

The employers lobby group IBEC said that the economy was under pressure, with 7000 people joining the unemployment register each month.

IBEC's Director General Turlough O'Sullivan said that employers remain committed to social partnership and that any new deal must be good for Ireland and good for jobs.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen (right) warned that painful cutbacks are on the way as Exchequer returns have already experienced a shortfall of € 1.2 billion this year.

The economy is now in decline and apparently the government is powerless to control some of the key international factors involved, including oil and food prices.

Serious cutbacks are on the way in a bid to balance the books, the government announced. All the optimistic promises made by the government parties before the last general elections in May 2007 seem to be forgotten now, and all the extra money promised for major improvements will be spent by the end of this year.

The latest economic returns, out on Wednesday, will set the economic backdrop for negotiations.

For the last week, employers and trade unions have been sniping at each over the airwaves. IBEC wants continued investment in the national plan, but a pay freeze for workers.

Also on the agenda are tricky non-pay issues, including pensions, agency workers and collective bargaining rights. Many analysts believe the talks could drift on into the autumn, if they do not break down completely. The consequences of that could be disastrous for the already weakened Irish economy, prolong the recession and destroy most of the advantages Ireland has gained in the twelve years of the "Celtic Tiger" boom.

The Emerald Islander

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