Friday 21 September 2018

'There is a need for a new form of engagement," says minister as he rules out return to social partnership

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe

Industry Correspondent

FINANCE Minister Paschal Donohoe has asked unions to set up a "new form of engagement" on pensions and Brexit but has ruled out a return to social partnership.

Speaking after a meeting with union leaders, Mr Donohoe said a return to wage setting where unions had a shared role in budgetary policy were not areas he wanted to return to.

"There is a need for a new form of engagement between the government and the Irish trade union movement," he said. "I believe the social partnership model of the past, where social partnership played a role in wage-setting and where the primary role of government in relation to budgetary policy was shared are not areas where I will be returning to."

He said a Labour Employer Economic Forum over the last 18 months had built up a shared understanding of Brexit and there is a need to build on that approach.

The minister said the strengthened Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court had led the way in creating wage agreements, while his department had been instrumental in forging collective agreements in the public service.

He said he has invited the executive committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to share ideas on the new forum.

Mr Donohoe said his department and the Department of the Taoiseach have also considered ideas in relation to this.

Meanwhile, he refused to say if he would consider restoring pay cuts worth €200m to over 60,000 recruits whose wages were reduced during the recession before the current wage agreement runs out at the end of 2020.

He said his department has already been engaging with unions on the issue. He said their terms and conditions had not prevented the public service from attracting recruits. He said it would be counterproductive to predict how long the talks would last.

Meanwhile, the largest public service union Forsa said it wants pay scales shortened as quickly as possible to compensate recruits who joined after January 2011.

Spokesperson Bernard Harbor said talks must lead to equal treatment for all state employees by removing two points from the new entrant pay scales.

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