Vote No to the National Pay Deal

by Denis Keane, President CPSU & Stephen Boyd

Socialist Voice February 2003

SUSTAINING PROGRESS, the new social partnership deal, is a combination of wage cuts, a pay freeze in the public sector, restrictions on the right to strike, and binding arbitration.

ICTU's executive has decided to ballot its affiliates on the new social partnership agreement, "Sustaining Progress", without recommendation. This deal contains a pay freeze, wage cuts, restrictions on the right to strike as well as a serious attack on the terms and conditions of public sector workers.

When ICTU entered the partnership talks, its stated agenda among other things included union recognition, above inflation pay increases and benchmarking to be paid, with as little strings as possible, by the end of 2003.

What have they achieved? IBEC, in a newsletter to its members, stated " there is no change in the principle of trade union recognition: no company can be forced to statutorily recognise a union".

The pay terms on offer 7% over 18 months, will not match inflation. Inflation is currently over 5% and most economists agree that it is likely to hit 6% or even 7% this year. The situation is even worse for workers in the public sector who will have to endure a six-month pay pause.

The deal also exposes benchmarking for what it really is - instead of being a "catch-up" claim to bring public sector wages in line with those in the private sector - it is a fundamental assault on the terms and conditions of public sector workers.

Benchmarking pay awards will not be fully paid until mid 2005 and in the meantime public sector workers won't get a cent of an increase until January 2004. In return for the benchmarking payments, workers will have to concede changes that make it easier to sack civil servants and remove promotion rights. Also included are extra work for teachers, performance management systems to prepare the ground for performance related pay, and procedures to prevent health workers from striking.

Probably the most dangerous aspect of the new deal is the binding arbitration clauses. The deal states that the vast majority of industrial relations issues will now be subject to binding arbitration. In the private sector, the Labour Court and in the public sector an ad-hoc arbitration board will issue recommendations on industrial relations issues. This procedure effectively blocks any trade union from taking industrial action to further their members' interests.

Once this deal is explained properly, workers will be appalled by the changes being sought to their working conditions. Many trade union leaders will attempt to push the deal through without any debate and with a campaign of misinformation and threats.

Social partnership has once again failed to deliver anything for workers. This deal creates the conditions for a major neo-liberal assault on the public sector. Once again it provides ideal conditions for the employers to protect their profits at our expense. Reject it.

For an alliance of unions and activists to Defeat this rotten deal

The TEEU, CPSU and IBOA have rejected the new national pay deal, other unions are set to follow. The Socialist Party is calling for the establishment of an alliance of unions to immediately launch a high profile campaign calling on the 550,000 union members affiliated to ICTU to vote no to the new national wage agreement.

The ballot has begun on what is the most anti-worker of all the social partnership deals so far. An alliance of Unions such as the CPSU, TEEU and those traditionally opposed to social partnership agreements such as MANDATE the ATGWU and others can affect the outcome of this ballot. A majority of workers will be angered by terms of this agreement. These same workers may not feel confident about rejecting the deal because they feel there is no alternative. An opportunity exists for the unions who are rejecting this deal to launch a massive media campaign, backed up by the distribution of 100,000s of information leaflets and a major advertising in the national press. A campaign such as this can reach out and give an alternative to the hundreds of thousands of trade union members who in the absence of such a campaign will only hear the lies and spin doctoring of David Beggs and Bertie Ahern.

The Trade Union Campaign Against the New Partnership Deal has been set up by trade union activists from across the private and public sector. This campaign is calling for a rejection of the deal and a return to free collective bargaining as the only way for workers to get decent pay rises and to stop the introduction of the draconian anti-union aspects of this new national wage agreement.

Even if this new deal is passed it won't mean an easy ride for the government and their social partners at the head of ICTU. The new economic climate will see an assault on jobs; wages, working conditions and union rights and workers will organise to defend themselves. The Socialist Party continues to build "activist" campaigns within all of the unions, aiming to unite all trade unionists who see the need to struggle to reclaim our unions and transform them into fighting, democratic bodies that struggle for workers rights.

For information on how to help in this campaign phone Des @ 087 6229686.

The Deal Means:

* A pay rise less than inflation
* Six month pay freeze in public sector
* Compulsory arbitration - that restricts the right to take industrial action
* Restrictions on the right to strike
* No progress on union recognition
* Its easier to sack civil servants
* Removal of promotion rights in public sector
* Extra work for teachers
* Opens the door to performance related pay in public sector

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