Despite the grand talk of a new type of Programme, despite the 'breakdown of talks, the final pay proposal is, if anything worse than that of the PCW. The basic pay increases of the PCW amounted to 8.25% over 36 months. Partnership 2000 offer 7.4% over 39 months.
Inflation is currently running at 1.9% or 6.4% for 39 months. Anything extra on that 7.4% is either a local bargained rise of up to 2% (paid for by concessions and productivity especially in the public sector) or tax concessions from the government (by which we are asked to pay for long over due justice in taxation through foregoing pay increases!!)
That is in the middle of the mother of all booms the ICTU has 'won' after inflation, 1% over 3 and 1/4 years. Under free collective bargaining, unions or shop stewards could get that or more for each three months for their members.
Where do the outstanding pay claims for nurses and ordinary civil servants fit in here? Profits are rising by as much as 45% according to Billy Attley of SIPTU (Irish Times, 30.11.96). Pay for business executives and top civil servants has raced ahead of the 'Programmes' terms.
No, we are told - the average industrial worker will actually get rises of up to 14% after tax in this deal. Workers should be aware of the enormity of what Partnership 2000 is putting over on them.
For years workers have sought tax reform. After nine years of the Programmes, the proportion of total income tax paid by the PAYE sector has risen by 7%. Now when bountiful tax returns finally lead to real tax concessions these tax benefits are to be used up to pay for a wage rise that booming business should be giving. What is more, one tenth of the tax cuts (£100 million) is to go to the employers! (A first for pay bargaining - the employers get cash across the table!) Without extra tax on the wealthy, tax concessions can only be paid for by curbing public spending. The union leaders fully subscribe to the Maastricht Treaty which limits public spending here and throughout Europe.
Even after the exodus of alleged fraudsters from the Live Register, unemployment is higher now than at the start of the first Programme nine years ago.
With growth rates reaching a booming 8% in 1995 extra jobs would be inevitable without any Programme. Many of these new jobs have been low paid, non-union, yellowpack or contract jobs, into which the increasing number of women in the workforce are mainly being steered. According to a recent FAS study, of the 200,000 extra jobs created between 1989 and 1996, 41,000 were in Community Employment Schemes and one-third of the total were part-time.
The new jobs forecast in Partnership 2000, where they are not in schemes, are projected to come on stream anyway. Partnership has actually cost thousands of well-paid union jobs at the ESB, with the participation of the ICTU.
During the talks the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI) published a report which called for measures to combat deepening divisions of wealth distribution in Irish society. Deepening divisions after three programs! CORI criticised "existing policy" [i.e. the policy shared by the 'social partners' in the national consensus] which "has led to increased economic growth without narrowing the poverty gap" and then went on to endorse it in Partnership 2000.
Over the past two Budgets social welfare rates have only kept pace with inflation (SIPTU Newsline, July 1996). An extra £25 million to bring social welfare to the minimum standard recommended in 1986 by the commission of Social Welfare changed the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed's stance to support for Partnership 2000. This was secured after ICTU had agreed to the deal!
Partnership is a fraud. Throughout the Programmes firms have hacked away at jobs, conditions, pay rates and union rights. C&C Ltd. reduced earnings for starters by 25% and then announced it had £20 million to spare to buy a new company! No sooner was the ink dry on a new partnership deal in Dublin Bus than CIE demanded cut-backs and withheld the PCW rise. In 1990 the government brought in new restrictive industrial relations legislation and in 1995 the Courts awarded £1.3 million against SIPTU for holding an official strike!
Partnership is a dangerous fraud. The unions accept rather then give a lead against the policies of government and employers. The Programmes preach that workers and employers are on the same side. Members lose interest and stay away from union activities because all the important transactions are made by top officials in government buildings. Attendances dwindle, young people don't join, union leaders become persuaders on salaries way above their members.
The new deal pushes partnership to ever greater heights. It explicitly commits the unions to "full and on-going co-operation with change and the need for adaptation and flexibility to maintain and improve competitiveness'. What does this mean? Agreement to downsizing, contracting out, new starting rates, continuous shift working?
The new deal seeks to extend 'partnership' to the local workplace, even though it is at the workplace where the national sweetness is shown to be sour. Through a 'framework' to be established nationally the heavy hand of 'partnership' will reach into the workplace and compel shop stewards to negotiate on the changes the company wants.
The ideology of competitiveness, the market and the enterprise culture is swallowed whole in Partnership 2000. A new centre will provide joint training for trade union officials and 'human resource' managers and the Government is to consider promoting enterprise as part of schools curricula!
Somewhere along the way, trade union recognition got shunted into a committee to consider 'proposals' from the ICTU. A national minimum wage, the 1990 Industrial Relations Act and the 'dirty dozen' social welfare cuts seem to have been overlooked too!
Workers are faced with a ballot on a 79 page document without nearly enough time for debate on the proposals and with the full resources of the media and trade union publications going to the Yes side only (a situation now prohibited in a Referendum). The call in SIPTU for a Special Conference to recommend on the deal, made by one of the Dublin Regional Conferences, has simply been ignored!