That's partnership

1. Late year a local partnership agreement, encased in a glossy booklet, was launched at the Bausch & Lombe plant in Waterford in the presence of senior SIPTU officials. Speaking at the launch of her election campaign on 14 February, Bausch & Lombe worker Carolann Duggan, told how their partner was seeking to be rid of longer term sick workers, even though they were covered by medical certs. Also there were indicators that the company wanted to pay below the agreed rate to new workers recruited for the planned expansion at Waterford.

In March it was reported that because 77 lathe operators were seeking a pay rise for additional productivity, and moving towards strike action, Bausch and Lombe were threatening to cancel the expansion and had placed a question mark over the whole operation. It's not that the B & L workers haven't given concessions before. Last August the then company vice-president, James Kennedy, said the workforce "has, time and again, demonstrated an outstandng work ethic, flexibility and dedication". That's workplace partnership.

2. Roche (Ireland) at Clarecastle sought redundancies and GOT THEM ALL bar nine. They then proceeded to pick nine SIPTU members for compulsory redundancy. Talk about pushing it. SIPTU struck and of course the strike was 'endangering the future of the plant'. That's workplace partnership! The IDA butted in, impartially, to warn that the strike endangered the plant and similar investments. Message from IDA: accept compulsory redundancy.

3. Tara Mines recently sough swinging cuts in earnings. The proposals came from a joint management-union committee. When the members rejected them, stewards, officials, etc all began to persuade the workers to accept. The future of the mine (from which the ore is shipped out) was in danger. Now THAT's workplace partnership.

4. Oerlikon Limited, in Finglas, Dublin, have been seeking some computerisation of machines. The people were agreeable but asked for the local 2% under P2000 for it (which they need not have done, since it's automatic according to SIPTU). The company said they'd want more than that for the 2% and made some suggestions.

At talks involving IBEC the SIPTU stewards drew attention to the recently announced salary and bonus hikes of the directors of the parent company Unidare, who received six figures sums each. The IBEC official said that had nothing to do with it! That's workplace partnership.

5. Management at nearby Tinsley Wire in Finglas, recently set up a pilot team under Chapter 9 (workplace partnership) of P2000. The SIPTU shop steward heard about after it was established. That's workplace partnership!

6. Unions at Telecom Eireann have just agreed to 14.9% of the shares of the company going to employees in return for conceding changes, the abolition of overtime bonuses and the introduction of pension contributions. the balance of the cost of the shares will be met by loans to the workers, to be repaid through unpaid dividends. Sounds like the workers are paying for a small piece of their (or our) company.

Part of the new arrangements include part-privatisation to 'strategic partners' KPN/Telia. Mary O'Rourke, Minister for Public Enterprise, described the ESOP as "a very big step for /Telecom Eireann and a very big step for social partnership." Peter Cassels of the ICTU described the agreement as "a watershed for industrial relations in Ireland.

It establishes a new model for partnership in the workplace, which has the potential to change our industrial relations system for all time from conflict to co-operation." (Irish Times, 27.3.98) It was not until the following day that the Irish Times, in its editorial, including the information that, on top of the many job losses already in Telecom Eireann, 2,500 jobs are now to go! That's 'partnership in the workplace'! 14.9% Sounds more like a SOP than an ESOP.

7. Peter was at it again at the special Conference of the Labour Party (the political wing of the SIPTU leadership) to advocate privatisation of state companies. Delegates such as ESB board member James Wynn and DCTU secretary Sam Nolan opposed the idea. But "guest speaker" Peter Cassels of ICTU advised that change need not be negative or threatening. The partnership approach between trade unions and employers was in an early stage of evolution in this State, he said, and it had produced a great deal that was positive (Irish Times editorial 30.3.1998). (Our emphasis - you've been warned.)

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