Is there tentative interest in a new national social dialogue?
In our most recent “Client Update” we provided an update and review of the IR and ER landscape. Over the next few weeks we’ll share our thoughts on some of the key issues.
Next up we look at “Is there tentative interest in a new national social dialogue?”.
Emergence of a Greater Shared Interest
The emergence of a greater shared interest expressed by some business and union leaders in exploring possibilities for genuine collaboration on issues of national importance is potentially significant. Whilst these remarks took place on quite different platforms by Danny McCoy, CEO of Ibec in September and the Fórsa General Secretary Kevin Callinan in October, it is also the case that nationally, a key challenge for Government is to oversee the economy through a lower trajectory for economic growth over coming years and managing all its implications.
The public service pay bill (2018) has risen at a rate of more than three times that of other spending (c. 12.6% versus 4%). One clear implication is that a decline in growth rate of tax revenues, will not allow the Government to sustain the level of increases which we have witnessed in the rate of government spending. This will also have serious implications for public service pay policy and therefore Government, as an employer will have to rethink its own pay strategy.
A Shared Goal…
A shared goal of all stakeholders should be to ensure Ireland is the preferred choice for employees to work and employers to do business. There are some signals that a range of common problems have emerged for both employers and workers, albeit with strong views on whether there is the potential for pay determination to form part of this movement to any collaboration nationally.
This may be a step too far in the near term. However, the need to address other genuine issues of social infrastructure and to support high quality employment so that businesses can continue to attract and retain the best talent ought to be a shared priority. The cost of housing, commuting, a lack of quality and affordable childcare, the need for increased investment in skills, education (at all levels) and training and in social inclusion along with the uncompetitive marginal tax rates for second earners are significant challenges for many businesses and their workers.
Preparing for the ‘Future of Work’
The challenges facing Ireland in supporting businesses and workers in preparing for the ‘Future of Work’ and the implications of climate change are other important issues for business and workers. There is an urgent need to build on the reforms to our workplace relations system introduced in 2015 and to make it truly ‘world class’3 . The reality too is difficult issues will remain on which business and trade unions will struggle to reach any new accommodations such as e.g. on collective bargaining rights. However, on the other matters mentioned above, there may be a real opportunity for dialogue and for progress on issues where a shared interest can be fashioned towards a new ‘social contract’ and which recommits to addressing slippages in national competitiveness.
Emergence of an Agreed Framework?
In time an agreed framework to inform pay discussions, whether at national or local level could also emerge. Yet, it is also clear that the Labour Employer Economic Forum is ill equipped to deal with the scale of these challenges and if these tentative exchanges are to be taken seriously, then a new vehicle to engage with the interests of the stakeholders on these issues will have to be found with Government having a central role and with appropriate safeguards for Oireachtas oversight.
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Stratis Consulting operates directly at Leadership Team, Chief Executive and Board levels to support organisations who want to inspire, lead and drive change in the areas of ‘Employee Relations, People Strategy and Workplace Innovation’. To learn more about us, or to arrange a consultation please contact our team in complete confidence, at email@example.com or call 01-2166302.