05 October 2008

SIPTU Regional Conference in Tralee

SIPTU, Ireland's largest trade union, has warned that the current global economic crisis could intensify pressure on workers' rights, employment quality and jobs.

Jack O'Connor (photo), the union's General President, also said that it would oppose any future referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if the Irish government did not legislate for the long overdue collective bargaining rights.

He was speaking at SIPTU's regional conference in Tralee, Co. Kerry, where the union discussed among other subjects the rights of workers and the future of pension funds. Speakers urged the government to give priority to protecting workers' pension funds in any bank restructuring.

Addressing the conference, SIPTU's General Secretary Joe O'Flynn said that the current volatile and challenging economic situation had been "brought about by the greed of those in a golden circle, who had little or no regard for the implications of their reckless actions".

He said that workers are witnessing the near collapse of their pension schemes due to reductions in returns from equity and property investments.

The Irish Association of Pension Funds warned yesterday that some private sector defined benefit pension schemes were near collapse.
Joe O'Flynn suggested that the situation was even worse, regarding defined contribution schemes, where all of the risk is carried by the employee.

He said it was "disgraceful the financial sector is protected to the tune of € 400 billion, while ordinary workers are facing the prospect of significantly reduced pensions, particularly at a time of rising unemployment and high interest rates".

Referring to the new national pay agreement, he admitted that he could not describe the proposals as "a great deal", given the strong possibility that the pay increases would barely match inflation.

However, he was satisfied they were the best terms available under the current circumstances and "not a cent was left behind on the negotiating table". He believed that most members would not do any better in a pay free for all.

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