No collective bargaining despite lockout, says Begg

Populist anti-EU, anti-immigration parties gain from lack of union rights, Seanad told

 Ictu general secretary David Begg: stressed importance of a decent job for all. Photograph:  Frank Miller

Ictu general secretary David Begg: stressed importance of a decent job for all. Photograph: Frank Miller

Thu, Sep 26, 2013, 01:00


Collective bargaining, the central objective of those involved in the 1913 lockout, has never been secured in Ireland, according to Ictu general secretary David Begg.

“We can erect statues to the 1913 leaders, we can name bridges after them, we can hold national days of commemoration to salute their sacrifice but so long as their great-grandchildren are deprived of the basic human right that they set out to achieve, then we do not really honour their memory.”

He said the social market economy had to be allowed to function in a way that allowed for collective bargaining systems to facilitate “distributional justice” and the opportunity of a decent job for all.

The alternative, he warned, seen in other EU states, “is an acceleration of support for populist right-wing, anti-European and anti-immigration parties”.

Mr Begg said there had never been overt hostility to trade unions by political parties, unlike in Britain or the US, but union recognition and collective bargaining “is actively opposed by employers’ organisations, IDA Ireland, the Supreme Court and some legislators who fear that granting a legal right to collective bargaining would inhibit foreign direct investment”.

Following the 2008 financial crisis, neo-liberal approaches were favoured over Keynesian demand management, leading to austerity as the counter-recession policy. “Paradoxically, Barack Obama was the only Keynesian left standing but the recovery in the US, in my opinion, is testimony to his wisdom,” Mr Begg said.

Mr Begg was speaking in the Seanad as part of its procedures to allow people in civic life to address the Upper House.