31 July 2008 Edition
Pay talks fail to guarantee collective bargaining rights
BY STEPHANIE LORD
SOCIAL PARTNERS involved in pay talks in the 26 Counties have failed to reach agreement on the issue of collective bargaining, a worrying lack of development for the trade unions with the talks in their final week. If agreement on collective bargaining was reached, employers would have to recognise trade unions in workplaces where the workers want it. Although workers have a right to be represented on an individual basis by a trade union there is currently no statutory right to collective bargaining.
Employers are against collective bargaining as many multinationals are against trade union representation in the workplace. There have been recent cases of multinationals operating in the 26 Counties in bases with trade union recognition, closing and relocating to non-unionised premises. The Government is not supportive of collective bargaining rights but the unions are holding out for this principle. It is unlikely that an agreement on pay will be reached if there is no agreement on collective bargaining.
The difficulties of reaching a pay agreement will be exacerbated by employers calling for a wage freeze. It is expected that trade unions will be pushed to accept wage increases below the rate of inflation. The worsening economy in the 26 Counties will also be a major factor in brokering a pay deal.
One area in which agreement was reached was the issue of life-long learning being prioritised for low-skilled workers. This came as the National Economic Social Forum reported to the Government that this is an essential for vulnerable workers as the economy becomes increasingly knowledge-based.
The pay talks began in April and were due to conclude this week. It is expected that if no agreement is reached, the talks will be postponed and then reconvened in September.