Industrial Relations

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Workers Have Spoken

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This post originally appeared on Unite the Union’s Croke Park Report blog on the 17th of April.

66 percent of public sector workers voting on the Croke Park 2 proposals rejected the deal. Of the 20 unions participating in the ballot, 14 rejected the deal and 5 accepted (we don’t have information on the vote from Veterinary Ireland). The result was overwhelming and conclusive.

There is one argument going around that says if four percent of public sector workers in SIPTU had switched from rejection to acceptance, then Croke Park 2 would have passed.

However, this overlooks the fact that two-thirds of public sector workers rejected the deal. A small change in any particular union would make no difference in the overall vote.

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Dublin Council of Trade Unions: May Day March, ‘1913-2013 Unfinished Business’

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Dublin Council of Trade Unions

May Day 2013

1913-2013 Unfinished Business’

Resist austerity- March with your banners

The Dublin Council of Trade Unions is holding its annual MAY DAY demonstration on Wednesday, May 1st.

Assembly point will be Parnell Square at 7 pm and marching to Liberty Hall for a public meeting at Beresford Place.

Music and stalls around the Lock Out theme will follow in the theatre and bar area of Liberty Hall.

This year’s theme will be ‘1913/2013: unfinished business’. The unfinished business includes the legal recognition of trade unions in all employments and negotiating rights for all members.

It also includes a policy of resistance to austerity imposed by the government at the behest of the troika. Resistance to unemployment; to relentless cuts in health services, education, social welfare, community services, and in provision for the needy.

Job creation can never be seriously addressed in a climate of austerity. Oil and water don’t mix.

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Hitting the Lower Paid Even Harder

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This was originally posted on Unite's Croke Park Report blog.

The Government claims their proposed pay-cut deal is ‘fair and equitable’. They must have a strange idea of fairness and equity because when you drill down into the Euros and cents you find that the lower paid will be hit harder.

Let’s take the example of single person who works 10 Sundays a year. Currently they receive double-time. The proposed pay cut would reduce this to 1.75. The impact on gross incomes is the same across the income categories.

However, once you factor in the impact on disposable income (that is, after tax) the situation changes dramatically.

Those on lower pay will find they suffer a much higher impact on their take-home pay – a hit that many lower paid cannot afford or absorb. The reason for this is the interaction between the standard rate of tax and the top rate of tax. The Government, of course, is aware of this impact.

This trend will persist with couples – whether it is one or both spouses working. Those on the standard rate of tax will suffer a higher impact on their net income than those on the higher tax rate.

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Taking Democracy Seriously

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In a recent article on this site, Miriam Cotton took me to task for 'intellectually-rationalised paralysis' in light of the current crisis. Her article -written with admirable openness and honesty- is an acid criticism of the failure of the Irish Left to put together a coherent response to the present crisis.

I disagree with many aspects of her analysis. I don't believe what she describes as 'rapacious, international financial corporatism' is 'worse than capitalism': it is capitalism. I certainly wouldn't treat my own writings as indicative or representative of tendencies on the Irish Left -for good or bad. Indeed, if what I write ends up getting treated in that way, it highlights one of the serious problems of the Irish Left: in public, it is either very small, or very quiet, or both.

Miriam's analysis proceeds from the view that there ought to be a development similar to what has happened in Greece, as described by Helena Sheehan's recent piece on Greece: a proliferation of strikes at general and local level, resulting in an increasing convergence of the politics of the street with the politics of the ballot box.

By contrast with Greece, Miriam says Ireland's 'austerity and financier-facilitating ‘trade unions’' have 'have stood aside in pale and limp demur', as the austerity regime of bailouts, cutbacks and the destruction of social rights extends itself. No arguments from me here.

Given this context, she believes that my claim, made at the end of my ICTU piece in relation to 'the climate of grim sacrificial inevitability' (my words) that 'we need imaginative ways of communicating the conflict, of capturing people’s commitment to a struggle for democratic rights' is 'lobbing cold water over any idea' of calling for strikes.

She suggests that in effect I am saying 'sit down again everybody. As you were. We need to do lots more talking and thinking before we act.'

Let me address this as clearly as I can.

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Let’s Remind Ourselves that Downsizing the Public Sector is Economically Daft

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With negotiations over an extension of the Croke Park Agreement starting today, it is helpful to remind ourselves how daft it is to downsize the public sector payroll in the hopes it will reduce the deficit.

There are two ways to downsize the public sector payroll: cut public sector employment and/or cut public sector pay. Since the crisis began, we have been doing both. Public sector pay has been cut twice through the pension levy and the wage cuts of Budget 2010. Public sector employment has been cut by approximately 29,700 since late 2008, or 9.3 percent.

Yet, the Government finds that it must cut more than it had already planned. It needs €1 billion more in austerity measures to achieve their targets. It’s like running in quicksand – cut, sink, cut some more.

Yet, downsizing the public sector produces little benefit in stabilising public finances. Why? Because it is so darned deflationary – it bleeds the economy of employment, consumer spending and growth. When you factor in the economic consequences of the cuts, you find the Exchequer hasn’t saved as much as it hoped.

Let’s look at the estimates from the ESRI.

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Six Points in Croke Park

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As talks for a new Deal begin here are a half-dozen things you probably know about the Croke Park Deal that should stop the unions extending it.

  1. The Croke Park Deal seems to set up a conflict between pay and job security, on the one hand, and services to the public and the needy on the other. (Of course the real conflict is between pay, job security and services on the one hand and the billions given to the banks on the other. Nevertheless this does not stop the media head fixers from using the structure of the Croke Park Deal to pitch services against pay, job security and conditions. The alternative is for the unions to fight against cuts in services and jobs, wages and conditions.)

  1. The Croke Park Deal seems to accept cuts in services in return for a jobs and pay guarantee. (This impression is reinforced by the lack of union resistance to the cuts and, indeed by point 3 below).

  1. The Croke Park Deal facilitates the cuts in services through co-operation with restructuring and transferring to cover for the reduced staffing.

  1. The Croke Park Deal agrees to massive reductions in (decent and unionised) jobs at the very time when every job is needed and in contradiction to the trade union policy of state-led investment in growth and jobs. (“Public Service Numbers are now [September 2012] 28,000 lower (at 292,000 approx) than their peak (of 320,000 approx) at end 2008”(Progress on the implementation of the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan, 6th September 2012]).
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Budget 2013: November 24th is a chance to make our voices heard

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Michael O’Reilly: On December 5th, the Government is set to introduce its second austerity budget – and the sixth austerity budget since the onset of the crisis. €3.5 billion more will be sucked out of the economy, on top of the €25 billion already withdrawn since the end of 2008. Once again, all the signs are that low and middle income groups will bear the brunt of increased taxation and reduced expenditure. And that means that domestic demand will continue its downward spiral – putting more businesses under pressure and throwing more people onto the dole queues.

Budgets are about political choices. In a democracy, political choices are dictated by public opinion – and public opinion needs to be mobilised and vocalised. That is why the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, together with other civil society groups, is asking people to come out on Saturday November 24th and issue a simple demand: No more cuts in 2013.

Today marks the start of a 30-day countdown to the march. During this countdown, we will be publishing ’30 reasons to march’ – one each day until November 24th. There are, of course, many more and we are inviting individuals and groups to visit our Facebook page and leave their own ‘reasons to march’.

Communities up and down the country see the economic and social consequences of current economic policy every day. They know that austerity is killing the patient – and that more austerity will not produce a cure.

Domestic demand has collapsed. Five businesses closed down each day in 2011 – and this year’s figures are likely to be worse. 300,000 are unemployed, and many more are underemployed. Over 1.8 million people are left with less than €100 at the end of each month after paying essential bills. One in ten of us is living in food poverty. One million of our fellow citizens are living in deprivation as measured by the CSO – including over 335,000 children.

And these figures would probably be even starker were it not for emigration: between April 2011 and April 2012 alone, a total of 46,500 Irish people left the country.

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