The purpose of this blog is to provide analytical commentary on formal and informal labour organisations and their attempts to resist ever more brutal forms of exploitation in today’s neo-liberal, global capitalism.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Let’s accept a smaller slice of a shrinking cake: Irish public sector trade unions in crisis.

Trade unions find themselves in difficult situations during times of economic crisis. Should they negotiate with the government and potentially become co-opted into austerity policies or should they resist any cuts in public spending and risk being completely excluded from the policy-making process? In this guest post, Roland Erne raises some crucial questions in relation to current developments in Ireland.

Photo by informatique
Irish trade unions are currently balloting their members about a new collective bargaining agreement for the entire public sector (Labour Relations Commission 2013). If a majority of union members in a majority of public sector unions within the Irish Congress of Trade Union (ICTU) endorses the proposed “Croke Park 2” agreement, it will come into force on the 1 July 2013. As a result, the public sector wage bill will be cut by another 7 per cent with union approval, although public sector workers already suffered a reduction in their earnings of the order of 25% since 2009. This development raises two questions: First, why is there a sudden need for an additional one billion cut in Irish public sector pay? Second, why are the leaders of Ireland’s biggest public sector unions, i.e. SIPTU and IMPACT, supporting the proposed agreement despite the substantial pay cuts it entails?

Read the full article here!

Roland Erne is Senior Lecturer in the University College Dublin. He is author of European unions: Labor's quest for transnational democracy (Cornell University Press, 2008). 

1 comment:

  1. I have just posted an updated version of the article (see the link to the article above).

    The government’s endeavour to divide and conquer Irish publicsector workers and unions eventually failed, as not only the members of unions whose leaders recommended a ‘no’ vote
    overwhelmingly rejected the deal. A majority of rank-and-file members of SIPTU also voted ‘no’,regardless of the contention of their union leaders that they would have suffered lessfrom the unequal cutbacks contained in the proposed deal.

    The ballot result shows that there is growing discontent with the austerity programmes that have been imposed on Irish workers, especially in the public sector. As a result, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform may not only be facing a revolt of Labour Party backbenchers in parliament but also a major confrontation with public sector workers if the government moves to introducelegislation to cut their pay.


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