Article from the May 2005 edition, the Socialist
paper of the Socialist Party, the CWI in Ireland.

"Partnership" swindle

by Michael O'Brien

A RECENT presentation at a trade union activists forum by Eddie Conlon of the Teachers' Union of Ireland provided further confirmation of how the life time of social partnership in Ireland has coincided with a transfer of wealth from working people to the rich.

In 1987, 77% of Ireland's national income went to wages, slightly above the EU average. In 2003, despite the workforce almost doubling in size, its share had declined to 55%, compared to an EU average of 68% and a corresponding figure of 66% in the US!

Between 1995 and 2003, profits and self employed income has increased by 189%, whereas wages and pensions have gone up 126%. You can only explain the phenomenon of a bigger workforce getting a smaller share of the wealth they create if you examine their "productivity" - or to put it another way - the rate of exploitation. For example, between 1995 and 2004 unit wage costs in the manufacturing sector have declined by 38% while output has increased by a whopping 142%.

So where does that leave social partnership? Many of our pro-partnership union leaders claim that this arrangement gives them influence over government policy in terms of social spending.

The anecdotal evidence of crowded A & E wards and schools falling to bits and pensioners and social welfare dependants coping with our high prices and stealth taxes is a sufficient answer. Between 1985 and 2003 government spending on services as a percentage of GDP has declined from 45% to 27% compared to an average decline of 45% to 42% in the EU.

Do you ever get the feeling you have been swindled?

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