05 August 2008

Views differ after National Pay Talks collapsed

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan (left) is still "very hopeful" that an agreement between Irish trade unions and employers can be reached when pay talks reconvene in Dublin in three weeks time. The negotiations of the Social Partners over a new national wage agreement had collapsed without a result last weekend.

Mary Coughlan said there was "absolutely no acrimony between the sides" and it was "appropriate for Jack O'Connor of SIPTU to reflect that he was taken aback by headlines over the weekend". What happened in the breakdown should not be heightened in any way.

Meanwhile SIPTU president Jack O'Connor (right), head of the country's largest trade union, warned that employers who fail to address pay claims could face industrial action. He said that there had been "no indication that employers would adopt more reasonable approaches" if partnership talks were to resume.

However, Irish employers insist that excessive pay increases would "damage competitiveness" and trigger even more job losses.

The Tánaiste's comments came as bank workers were expected to press ahead with their claim for an increase of 10% in their pay over the next two years. The Irish Bank Officials Association is to meet in two weeks' time to discuss this claim.
The Association's general secretary, Larry Broderick, said that his union lodged its pay claim six months ago and that workers could not afford a pay pause.

The collapse of partnership talks has triggered a new push on pay, with private sector unions set to lodge pay claims this week on an employer-by-employer basis.
Unions say they must protect the interests of their members, whose pay has been eroded by inflation over the last two years.

The nation's employers' lobby group IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Confederation) is advising its member companies not to engage in local bargaining, at least until after the Taoiseach meets the Social Partners to review the situation at the end of the month. They fear excessive pay hikes would damage their competitiveness.

However, the SIPTU president warned that any direction by employers to refuse to engage with unions would contravene most collective agreements and could raise the prospect of industrial unrest. Jack O'Connor said there had been no indication that employers would adopt a more reasonable stance if talks resume - and in those circumstances unions have no alternative but to press ahead with claims against individual employers.

The Emerald Islander

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