17 November 2008

ICTU accepts new National Wage Agreement

Today a Special Delegate Conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has voted to accept the new National Wage Agreement negotiated in September and signed on September 17th. (see my entry of that day)

The president of the country's largest union, SIPTU, called on the Irish government to withhold state contracts from employers who fail to comply with the new agreement.
Speaking at the conference, Jack O'Connor (photo) said that employers who reneged on their obligations were "guilty of nothing short of national sabotage".

Last Friday it was clear that the vast majority of Irish trade unions had given the green light to the new National Wage Agreement - albeit reluctantly - and even its strongest advocates acknowledged its shortcomings. (see my entry of November 15th)

The country's second largest trade union, UNITE (formerly AGTWU), which voted against the agreement, blamed inadequate provisions on pay pensions and union negotiating rights.

However, speaker after speaker acknowledged that in the current economic climate there was no prospect of securing anything better outside national partnership negotiations. Unions will now push for full speedy implementation of every promise - particularly on employment rights.

The Irish Business & Employers' Confederation (IBEC) will endorse the deal later today, though the Construction Industry Federation is still not guaranteed to accept it at all.

Meanwhile the Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) has called on the government to suspend the national pay terms, in the interests of the economy.

ISME warned that it was "self-evident that wage increases will exacerbate an already perilous economic situation and, if granted, will drive companies to enforced closure, condemning more people to redundancy".
It is more than unlikely that their arguments will find much support and that the government will follow their advice.

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