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4 May 2006 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

BY Justin Moran

Partnership pay talks

After twelve weeks of partnership negotiations, discussion on pay started this week in what unions are characterising as a breakthrough on labour market reform.

Draft proposals will see a trebling in the number of Labour Inspectors and legislation to protect workers from displacement. But promised legislation can easily be amended in the Dáil and commitments on Labour Inspectors could join the array of broken promises the Government made in Sustaining Progress.

Meanwhile on pay, ICTU is arguing that conditions for generous increases have never been better, yet real industrial earnings fell last year for the first time since the 1980s.

While there is broad agreement that a new partnership programme should run for longer than before, perhaps even ten years, unions want the pay element to cover only one, or perhaps two years. Employers, backed by the Taoiseach, want a three-year period.

Unions are also demanding clauses allowing them to pursue pay increases above the terms of the Agreement where profitable employers are concerned. Sustaining Progress had a clause that allowed employers to renege on pay increases if they could argue they were unable to afford them.

With these issues and pension reform still to be resolved, the target of a new deal before the end of the month seems extremely ambitious.

SIPTU and ATGWU Co-operation Agreement

After years of rivalry between two of the country's biggest unions, SIPTU and the ATGWU have announced a Co-operation Agreement, indicating a better relationship following clashes over 'poaching' of members in recent years that came to a head when the ATGWU accepted SIPTU members who had broken away to form the ILDA.

Workers' Memorial Day

• Dublin City Councillors Daithí Doolan and Killian Forde on the picket line with members of BATU and SIPTU last Friday to mark international Workers' Memorial Day outside the offices of the Health & Safety Authority. Last year 70 people died on the job in the 26 Counties, 23 of them in the construction industry. A minute's silence was held at 12pm. Members of the family of construction worker Justin Foley who was killed on a site in Ballymun laid a wreath at the offices of the HSA and called for support for their campaign. More details on www.justinfoley.ie

Work to rule at FÁS

Staff at FÁS staff head office took work-to-rule action on Tuesday morning, refusing to answer phones or respond to emails as part of their capaign against the Government's decentralisation programme.

Since April FÁS staff have been engaged in a series of industrial actions and pickets at the head offices to prevent efforts to decentralise their positions to Birr, Co Offaly. The Government has breached the voluntary nature of decentralisation by restricting promotion prospects to those willing to transfer.

Harney snubs nurses

For the first time in 30 years the Minister for Health will not attend the annual conference of the Irish Nurses Organisation. The conference began this week in Cavan.

INO General Secretary, Liam Doran, speaking on the eve of Conference said: "We hope her absence is not as a result of the public position the INO has taken, on behalf of patients, nurses and midwives, on A&E overcrowding and other issues over the past 12 months." concluded Doran.

May Day

• Sinn Féin TD and party spokesperson on worker's rights Arthur Morgan at the May Day commemoration in Dublin last Saturday. SIPTU National Industrial Secretary Mick Halpenny noted that this year was the 90th anniversary of 1916 but also the 70th anniversary of the founding of Aer Lingus, which the state wished to mark by the sale of the airline but that as far as the workers were concerned: "This game is not over yet."

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