Labour Research June 2009

European news

Tripartite Irish talks face collapse

Talks between the Irish Congress of Unions (ICTU), the Irish employers’ association IBEC and the Irish government on an agreement on national economic recovery appeared deadlocked as Labour Research went to press.

Relations between the unions and the government reached a crisis in February when the prime minister introduced measures to combat Ireland’s severe economic and financial crisis, whose centrepiece was a €1.4 billion (£1.25 billion) pension levy on Ireland’s public sector workers (see Labour Research March 2009, page 8).

At that point the unions appeared on a collision course with the government, organising a massive Dublin demonstration in protest. However, a planned day of industrial action on 30 March was called off when the government offered to re-open talks. The unions’ position had in any case been weakened when a ballot of the largest public sector union, IMPACT, narrowly failed to provide the two-thirds majority necessary to authorise strike action.

Talks have been going on ever since but they seem to have stalled because of the government’s lack of concessions. ICTU general secretary David Begg said negotiations with the government were like “playing handball against a haystack”. Progress in talks with the private sector employers alone may still be possible, but an overall agreement appears to depend on additional moves on the government side.