25 October 2016

A month ago the Seanad passed a Labour Party motion calling for the re-establishment of an Employer-Labour Conference.

The proposed body would complement and support the work of government and current industrial relations institutions, and is aimed at promoting industrial peace and stability. All too often the State’s industrial relations machinery is mobilised in crisis situations when the gulf between the actors is so large as to be practically unbridgeable.

Senator Nash said “This type of body predates social partnership, and was active in the 70’s and 80’s. It is not designed to supplant, but to complement the work of the WRC and the Labour court, and help solve intractable disputes, pre-empt strikes and prevent an issue from becoming a crisis.”

“Since the spring it has been clear that major industrial relations disputes were on the horizon. We in the Labour Party have proposed a number of practical solutions including bringing forward discussions on a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement.”

The Government mantra that “the Lansdowne Road Agreement is the only show in town” continues to be trotted out. The Government has refused to consider either formal or informal mechanisms to address the legitimate and building concerns of workers.

The government is drowning in a sea of industrial relations problems. As each day of inaction from this decision-makers passes, these problems become more complex.

They are short of time and out of ideas and the government should adopt the proactive mechanisms proposed by the Labour Party in both the Dáil and Seanad.

Our Party leader, Brendan Howlin, has now raised these issues three times with the Taoiseach at Leaders’ Questions where he has failed to provide any guidance apart from long fingering the problem with a Public Sector Pay Commission that won’t report until later next year.


Notes to Editor’s: The Employer-Labour Conference

The function of the Employer-Labour Conference was to provide a forum for discussion and review of developments and problems in incomes, prices and industrial relations. The Conference was a bi-partite body with an independent chairman agreed on by both sides. The employer side was composed of 26 employer members of whom five are nominated by the State in its capacity as employer and 21 were nominated by IBEC and State-sponsored bodies. The labour side was composed of 26 labour members nominated by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. In the 1980’s industrial relations issues referred to the conference were considered by a steering committee comprising six labour side representatives, five employer side representatives and an independent chairman. It was later subsumed into Social Partnership with it’s last iteration being the National Implementation Body.

The Employer – Labour Conference model would work by forging a consensus around the major policy challenges facing this country and would support and complement the work of the WRC and the Labour Court.

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