Housing and childcare wage deal proposed in industrial negotiations
The possibility of a comprehensive agreement between unions, employers and the government covering wage, economic and tax policy and issues such as housing and childcare was raised during preliminary contacts between these parties, according to The Irish Times.
Such an arrangement, reminiscent of some social partnership agreements of the past, could trade union-imposed wage restrictions for tax cuts, increases in social protection and improvements in services for workers.
But senior government sources suggested late on Friday that such a deal was still a long way off and that a short-term deal focused on wages to tackle the impact of inflation was more likely.
Unions have acknowledged they are open to the idea, with the head of the country’s largest public sector union, Fórsa, suggesting this week that ‘social dialogue’ should be considered as part of a new structure for shaping wages, labor and economic policy. ahead of public pay talks later this year.
“I think there needs to be a combination of measures to deal with the cost of living crisis which will involve collectively negotiated wage increases coupled with agreed measures to deal with the social wage,” said Kevin Callinan , general secretary of Fórsa, told the Irish Times.
“Call it social dialogue or tripartism – that would be the way most modern progressive European countries would work.
Mr Callinan said such an approach could avoid “short-termism as a way to address the fundamental challenges facing the country”, instead “trying to create cohesion and stability”. He said the issue should be addressed before the next public wage talks because it would have a ripple effect on what the unions would expect from the government.
Taking a more limited approach, he said, would mean there would be “more pressure to deliver bigger pay rises if people’s cost of living has not been reduced by other measures. which were taken”. A structured approach could see measures introduced over a few years “but actually committed in the next budget”, he said, “in a way that was overt and people could see we’re on a trajectory here to try to manage the cost of living over a period of time”.
Danny McCoy, chief executive of employers’ body Ibec, said a broader framework for wage negotiations was worth considering.
“I think that should be explored,” he said. “Without a framework, people receive higher salaries but are frustrated because they still cannot afford to pay for services . . . The most catastrophic mistake would be to try to index wage increases to price increases.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Friday he was open to a broader public compensation deal because of the need to “work strategically as a country in the face of a unique set of circumstances.”
“We have entered into an exploratory dialogue with the unions on what would be the best approach as a country, not only in terms of remuneration, but in terms of services and we will see where that takes us.
Irish Congress of Trades Unions (Ictu) general secretary Patricia King told the Fórsa conference in Killarney on Friday that there was a real threat that the current round of wage demands linked to soaring inflation would end by strikes in companies that did not recognize the difficulties of their employees.
On public pay talks, Ms King said it would be unwise for the labor movement to state a target figure for what it was looking to win before negotiations escalated next week. The Fórsa conference also heard calls for wage increases to match or exceed the rate of inflation, which hovers around 7%.