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30 January 1997 Edition

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Workers in struggle: Partnership 2000 back on the chain gang

The partnership agreements might seem like a positive first step towards giving unions a role in economic and social policy but the reality is that ten years later unions are still excluded

Testing times lie ahead for Irish workers as 350 Irish Congress of Trade Union (ICTU) delegates meet today to ratify their fourth consecutive pay deal with both the Dublin Government and employers organisations.

The ratification process is essentially a rubber stamp exercise as delegates will be voting en bloc on the mandate of their individual unions which have already been balloted over past weeks. This current voting round is unique because never before has there been so much opposition to an agreement with, for example, the nurses' and teachers' unions voting against. However the decision by SIPTU to vote in favour effectively guarantees Partnership 2000.

There is a lot that could be said about the failures of the partnership process over the last ten years and many questions to be asked on why for the fourth time the ICTU, despite all the pre-negotiations hype, has come up with an agreement whose themes and commitments mirror the same unfulfilled generalisations promised in previous partnership agreements.

Who can forget ICTU General Secretary Peter Cassells' promise last March that ``after nearly ten years only a radically new and different model to prepare us for the next millennium is worthy of consideration''.

But instead of raking over past trade union movement failures An Phoblacht has set the following short test for ICTU delegates and indeed anybody who voted yes or supported the Partnership 2000 agreement:

Question 1

What do the workers of the Early Learning Centre in Cork, the Mountview Inn in Dublin, the Royal Dublin Hotel, Dunnes Stores, CIE, and Telecom Eireann have in common?

Answer: In 1996 (and in some cases 1997) they were engaged in industrial action to secure pay increases guaranteed to them under state wage agreements which their employers were unwilling to pay.

Question 2

What do the workers of Packard, Irish Ferries, CIE (again), Anglo Irish Beef Processors in Ravensdale, McCarren's Pig Processing Plant in Cavan and Packard all have in common?

Answer: These workforces were all asked to accept wage cuts in 1996. Cost of living wage increases were not even on the employers' agenda here.

Question 3

Why would the treatment of An Post clerical workers and TCD part-time workers be considered a breach of the partnership agreements?

Answer: CPSU members at An Post were forced into a three week strike last year after their employer (the Dublin Government) reneged on the state wage agreement by hiring selected new staff, paying them £130 more than union members were getting for the same job.

Low paid part-time workers at Trinity College went on strike this year to protest at the college reneging on a commitment to make adequate pension contributions for staff, some of whom had worked over 40 years for the college.

Question 4

What do Tony O'Reilly, Micahel Smurfit, Eddie O'Connor (former managing director of Bord na Mona), the board and directors of AIB, Bank of Ireland, Leinster House TDs and in fact most executives in the 26 Counties have in common?

Answer: Their wages are not curtailed by the partnership agreements and all have achieved wage increases above those paid to the partnership workers. Last year a survey by Inbucon consultants showed that wage increases for executives was running at 6.3% for the year, more than double that paid under the PCW agreement.


If you could answer these questions, and still considered voting yes to Partnership 2000 the next question must be why? All you have done is prolong inequity and ill-treatment of workers. The partnership agreements might seem like a positive first step towards giving unions a role in economic and social policy but the reality is that ten years later unions are still excluded as much as they were in 1987. What you have done by voting yes is consign you and your fellow workers back onto the chain gang.

£120,000 - no problem

The year may be only a month old but new records are being set already for corporate salary increases. The ESB are looking for a new chief executive who can a expect a yearly salary of over £100,000 for their troubles. Even though the state guidelines say the salary should only be £80,000, the cunning corporate boffins at ESB have worked out a complex productivity bonus which means that current chief executive Joe Moran could have potential earnings of £104,000.

If the power sector does interest you, how about chief executive at VHI which pays a meagre £120,000 annually? The last chief executive received only £65,000 but the board are apparently ``determined that salary will not be a problem'' for the new boss.

Call to re-evaluate corridor project

Sinn Féin economics spokesperson and Ard Chomhairle member Caoimhghín O Caoláin called this week for a re-evaluation of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation and the Confederation of British Industry in Northern Ireland's economic corridor project. 30

In a statement to conincide with his attendance at an IBEC/CBI conference on the proposed economic corridor project between Dublin and Belfast, Councillor O Caoláin said, ``The idea of an economic corridor between Belfast and Dublin is a laudable one but needs to de developed in the context of overcoming all the negative effects of partition''.

``The recent study by the Combat Poverty Agency on Rural Poverty in Ireland showed that it was the border regions and the North West which were the most deprived in the state. The east coast of Ireland is relatively more developed than the west and is at the same time developing faster. On this basis the economic corridor project seems unbalanced as it could intensify the already unequal pattern of economic development on the island''.

``What is needed is for a series of corridor areas to be designated along the border between Donegal and Derry, or a Monaghan-Fermanagh-Derry link-up or a corridor between Sligo and Fermanagh-Tyrone.''

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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