Cool heads needed to avert workplace chaos
Published 19/03/2016 | 02:30
After seven years of wage restraint and increased taxation, the clamour for pay rises is reaching a crescendo in many workplaces around the country.
The electorate clearly did not buy into the various political promises regarding tax cuts during the General Election campaign. Instead, it would appear the prevailing view is that the most likely way of increasing take-home pay is through hikes in wages.
Expectations have been fuelled by signs of economic recovery in some parts of the country and economy. Siptu general president Jack O'Connor says he expects unions to demand pay increases averaging between 3pc and 5pc this year.
However, there are many variables which could frustrate such pay claims. The recovery is fragile and has not been far-reaching. There is also plenty of potential for international shocks and the uncertainty over Britain's future in the EU to undo the progress of recent years.
Unions, employers and legislators would do well to heed the warning today of Kieran Mulvey, the director general of the Workplace Relations Commission.
Such have been the demands on the commission since it came into being last year, Mr Mulvey has likened it to a hospital emergency department.
There is a real danger, he warns, of a "free for all" approach to pay claims in the coming years, something Mr Mulvey believes would be "a national tragedy".
In this scenario, the unions with the biggest muscle would get the biggest settlements while others who may be more deserving get left behind.
Now, he says, is a time for cool heads and leadership.
He believes there is a need to construct a new model for future determination of public sector pay, suggesting some form of benchmarking.
Less certain is how pay disputes in the private sector will be resolved in the absence of a national bargaining structure or ground rules for negotiations.