11 January 2007 Edition
Time to reject ISME
BY CAOILFHIONN Ní DHONNABHÁIN
The ugly face of ISME (Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association), the representative association of small and medium enterprise, has been all too evident in recent times.
ISME condemned the meagre increase in the minimum wage which came into effect earlier this month. It has been pressing for the break up of the ESB, a successful and profitable state company regardless of the fact businesses are being hurt as electricity prices are being pushed up to facilitate such a privatisation.
ISME opposed the recent social partnership deal Towards 2016 claiming that the pay increase was over-generous to workers and that it represented a sop to CORI.
During the privatisation of Aer Lingus it attacked, without a sense of irony, what it called “ the greedy and self-serving attitude of SIPTU” following a work stoppage to facilitate Aer Lingus workers attending an important meeting about the future of their jobs.
ISME’s outbursts have done no service to those progressive SME’s who would not subscribe its world view, who have a social conscience and who treat their workers well and pay them properly. It undermines the work of Sinn Féin and others who have called for a policy shift so that the supports from the enterprise development agencies should be primarily directed at the development of indigenous micro, small and medium enterprises and at the development of social economy enterprises.
Sinn Féin wants to work with small enterprises to ensure the viability of that sector and to ensure that in conjunction with a robust public sector and a vibrant social economy sector it forms the basis of the economy.
But can we realistically be expected to work with ISME given positions and policies which it advocates? During the height of battle to prevent the outsourcing of jobs at Irish Ferries, ISME Chief Executive Mark Fielding vigorously defended the actions of Irish Ferries bosses, venomously attacked the unions and dismissed the plight of both the workers facing displacement and those who would be subject to exploitative pay and conditions under the new regime.
ISME demands that workers’ rights and conditions be sacrificed for competitiveness and have complained that legislation to protect workers “is increasing at an alarming rate”. Even legislation to protect the health and safety is opposed.
There are without doubt small and medium enterprises who do not subscribe to the views expressed by ISME. It is time that such enterprises came together to offer alternative representation to that currently provided by ISME.
It is time for the establishment of a representative organisation of those enterprises that understand that business benefits from the protection of public services and loses where such services are privatised - as exemplified by the huge costs to business when access to broadband was delayed by the privatisation of Eircom.
What is needed is a representative body that accepts that a strong workers’ rights regime and increased worker participation in company decision making results in a more productive work force, that legislation to protect health and safety of workers is good for business. One would hope that such a representative body would also work for a progressive reform of company law to place a company’s duties to its workers, to the wider community and to the protection of environment on a equal footing with the present responsibility to shareholders.