Industrial Relations

From Alpha to Omega Podcast #050: The Matrix

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This week I am delighted to welcome back the economist, economic historian, and extremely prolific author, Professor Michael Perelman of the California State University, Chico. We talk about the latest book he is working on: ‘The Matrix: An exploratory political economy of the dangerous, paradoxical interactions between war, the economy, and economic ideology’.

We discuss unintended consequences, the difficult of decision-making in complex situations, US Imperialism, Vietnam, Heavyweight Boxing ,and the little talked about darker side of Winston Churchill.

You can check out the Professors books here

And here is his blog:


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No2CrokePark2: Public Rally, Liberty Hall, Sat 25th of May @2pm

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Saturday 25 May 2pm

Liberty Hall


Public Rally

The trade union movement emphatically voted nearly 2-to-1 against CrokePark2. Grassroots members across several trade unions are coming together this Saturday to host a public rally at 2pm in Liberty Hall entitled ‘No2CrokePark2 – No2Austerity’ to remind the government and others of that vote and that “No Means No!”. All are welcome. Please share for your friends.

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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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What is the Government Thinking? Is it Thinking?

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This post was originally published Unite the Union’s Croke Park Report blog today.

It is difficult at times to understand what the Government is at. The weekend papers were full of analysis showing why growth was essential, if only to avoid another banking crisis (the IMF has warned of a €16 billion black hole if growth does not return to the economy). And yet Minister Brendan Howlin is threatening a 7 percent across the board-cuts in public sector wages if workers don’t vote for the current pay-cut proposals. There is nothing more certain to ensure we don’t return to growth than to cut wages.

We’re back in recession, according to the CSO (though you wouldn’t know this from reading media commentary which claims growth is on target). This occurred in the latter half of last year – the latest period we have data for. So what’s been happening so far this year? Are there signs of recovery on the horizon?

  • Retail Sales Index has fallen in the first two months of this year.
  • Industrial production is down (though there was a marginal increase in February).
  • Property prices are back in decline – having fallen in each of the last three months.
  • Manufacturing exports (which makes up most of our exports) fell in January by an annual 17 percent in value.
  • New vehicles licensed are down in the first two months by 14 percent over the first two months last year.
  • The Monthly Services Index fell in both January and February of this year.

The Live Register has fallen by 3,000 in the first three months of this year but how much of this is due to people moving into labour activation schemes, returning to education or just emigrating we don’t know.

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What the Latest Economic Figures Tell Us about Croke Park 2

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This post was originally published on Unite the Union’s Croke Park Report blog today.

It is interesting that the big news of yesterday made so little news. The CSO revealed that the economy fell back into recession in the latter half of 2012 but you will have to look hard to find much reporting on that. Maybe it’s because this inconvenient fact cuts across the official narrative. And while there was growth in three out of four quarters in 2010 and 2011, there was only one quarter of growth in 2012. That, too, didn’t get much coverage. That, too, may be inconvenient.

So what does this tell us about Croke Park 2? It tells us that it is irrational to cut wages and, so, spending power with an economy falling back into recession. Consumer spending and domestic demand has been stagnating for the last three years.

The domestic economy has flat-lined, suffering under a weight of austerity measures. This year alone there is the impact of the PRSI cuts, the property tax along with cuts in Child Benefit, investment and public sector employment – which will reduce disposable incomes further. Now the Government is proposing to cut the incomes of nearly 300,000 workers. Would anyone be surprised to see this stagnation continuing?

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The March issue of Socialist Voice is out now.

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The March issue of Socialist Voice is out now.

Can be viewed as a PDF here or view it online.

Table of contents:

  • Workers continue to pay the price [EMC]
  • The passing of a hero
  • Austerity hits local services [MA]
  • Theft by stealth—the solution of the rich [MA, JA]
  • The super-rich dine at our expense [NL]
  • Women written out of history [PD]
  • Launch of the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum
  • Democracy and the crisis—Part 2 [FC]
  • Spain swings to the left [TMS]
  • Western commentators shocked by their own darling [BG]
  • New abusive measure against one of the Cuban Five
  • The hunt for truth [RCN]
  • Belfast’s working-class troubadour [RH]
  • A fantastic sixty minutes of drama [PD]

From the lead article: Workers continue to pay the price

We need to constantly keep to the fore the following question: What is austerity designed to do?

It is for shifting the burden of crisis onto workers and away from capital, through pay cuts, redundancies, and the socialisation of corporate debt where necessary. Austerity is capitalism’s response to the crisis: to recover growth through increased exploitation and provide state-led guarantees to private investment.

Croke Park I and II are an extension of “social partnership.” Mentally, the ICTU still sees things in terms of giving away rights to placate the interests of the bosses.

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Thatcherism Delayed? The Irish Crisis and the Paradox of Social Partnership

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There has been much criticism recently here and elsewhere about the strategy taken by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions as a response to the crisis, the establishment, defending of, and piñata like status of the Croke Park Agreement, and the thinking behind the Lift the Burden ‘protest’ on the 9th of February which is supposed to send, we are told by David Begg a “very clear signal to Europe”. The clear message seems to be that Congress want to get Irish workers to support the government’s efforts in negotiating a deal on Ireland’s bank debt along the vague lines expressed in the June 2012 Summit that “the Eurogroup will examine the situation of the Irish financial sector with the view of further improving the sustainability of the well-performing adjustment programme”. In light of this ineffectual ambition on the part of Congress I thought it would be worth providing some context in the form of this very informative article by Terrence McDonough and Tony Dundon, of the School of Business and Economics at NUI, Galway. The follow is an excerpt from the final part of a much longer paper called Thatcherism delayed? The Irish crisis and the paradox of social partnership which was originally published in Industrial Relations Journal (41:6, 544–562) in 2010.

The whole article reviews the state of Irish industrial relations in light of the current economic crisis. It argues that social partnership was rooted in the continuation of a tradition of permissive voluntarism with minimal employment rights with both direct and indirect implications for the current Irish economic crisis. As such, Irish industrial relations cannot be understood in isolation from a broader analysis of the rise and fall of social structures of capitalist accumulation.

I would like to thank Terrence McDonough and Tony Dundon for permission to republish this section of the paper on Irish Left Review.

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Strikes Now!

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Does anybody else want to scream in frustration at the intellectually-rationalised paralysis that has the Irish Left by its vitals when it comes to the subject of strikes?

Richard McAleavey has written a terrific post on his Cunning Hired Knaves blog. Prompted by a poster for the upcoming Irish Congress of Trade Union (ICTU) march on February 9th against the debt burden, it’s a sharp analysis of its imagery and wording:

“First of all, its destructive ambiguity. To whom is the message addressed? Is it supposed to be a message to the Irish government, and through them, to the Council of Ministers to lift the burden off working people? Or, is it supposed to be a message to the people who bear the burden at the moment that they should exert themselves even more? Who is doing the speaking? Is 'Lift the burden' what the faceless silhouettes struggling beneath the weight are saying, or is it a public notice, as with a street sign that reads 'Give Way'?”

Rightly observing that ICTU’s poster is something Enda Kenny could equally happily stand in front of while telling us citizens that we must pay ‘our’ way, McAleavey goes on to parse the impotence of ICTU and its role in the country’s economic crisis as exemplified by their dissembling poster. However, just at the point in his article at which some readers might reasonably expect a call to strike action against the state of affairs he has just delineated, McAleavey lobs cold water over any idea of that kind in favour of this:

“And that -amid a climate of grim sacrificial inevitability- is a problem that no amount of simply shouting 'traitor!' or 'general strike!' will solve. We need imaginative ways of communicating the conflict, of capturing people’s commitment to a struggle for democratic rights, and of destroying the ambiguity served up by zombie social partnership.”

Whatever all that may yet turn out to mean, I’m sure it will be very worthwhile when it has finally been thrashed out. Wouldn’t strikes themselves be among the most effective means possible of ‘capturing’ people’s commitment to a struggle for rights? But there you have it – sit down again everybody. As you were. We need to do lots more talking and thinking before we act.

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30 Reasons to March on the 24th of November – No. 18: Unemployment Payments Are Too Low

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From Dublin Council of Trade Unions

During the 30-day countdown to the Anti-Austerity March on November 24th Dublin Council of Trade Unions has been publishing a Reason to March each day on their blog. Each post is also available to download in PDF format. There are, of course, many more reasons to march against austerity: so you can visit our Facebook page and leave your own ‘Reasons to March’?

The November 24th Anti-Austerity March is being organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions together with the Spectacle of Defiance, the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes, and the Communities Campaign Against the Cuts.

It will start from the Garden of Remembrance at 1 pm on November 24th.

Reason 18: Unemployment Payments are Too Low

Despite the constant misinformation, unemployment payments in Ireland are among the lowest in Europe. How much would someone on Irish average pay of €35,000 receive if they lost their job?

Of the Eurozone countries in the EU-15, Ireland ranks second last – only ahead of impoverished Greece.  Unemployment payments would have to rise by over €67 a week to reach German levels, and by over €130 a week to reach Dutch levels.

And this is before the cuts in unemployment payments in 2011.

Why should we march?  Because there are too many unemployed on incomes below the poverty line.

Download a PDF of this post here.

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The Left Overs of Social Partnership

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In Ireland, after four years of an austerity program we now find the economy is getting worse and not better. Most of society is asking where it all went wrong and what the solutions are. The trade union movement in Ireland appears to be divided on the approach we should take on the economy. Citizens of countries with austerity programs like Spain, Italy and Portugal are protesting and it’s mostly organised and led by the trade unions. But in Ireland there appears to be no will on behalf of some trade unions to take this approach. So why is this?

Did the trade union movement lose its way during social partnership and now finds it very difficult to cut the umbilical cord from the corporatist approach? Some people may even argue the trade union movement were complicit in the financial crisis, in that they had gone a step too far in their relationships with the Government and no one from the trade union spoke out at the time, on the economic and social policies implemented by the government.

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October 23rd Morning: The Recession Diaries

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To kick public sector workers around the block is in danger of becoming an officially recognised sport; bloated, inefficient, over-paid – and don’t even mention pensions.  Tony O’Brien is opining on the best instrument – scalpel or chainsaw –…

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