Taoiseach underlines role of dialogue with unions


SOCIAL DIALOGUE between the Government, unions and other groups has an important role in generating fresh thinking and new ideas, the Taoiseach has said.

At the biennial delegate conference of the Impact trade union in Killarney yesterday, Enda Kenny said the Government, its officials and public servants did not have all the answers.

“That is why I see an important role for social dialogue in helping to broaden understanding about what needs to be done.”

He said sectors and organisations of strategic importance in Irish life clearly should have opportunities to engage in discussion with the Government when it was appropriate. He added that the National Economic and Social Council provided a forum to find solutions to common problems.

However, he warned: “This must be an open, flexible process. It must facilitate, not strangle or frustrate, change and reform.”

He said the door of the Government was open to engage on issues raised by Impact at its conference.

Mr Kenny also said the country would only be able to afford the quality service that people aspired to if productivity was increased across the public service.

He commended public service staff for how they dealt with the large-scale retirement of personnel at the end of February.

However, he said that the body charged with overseeing the implementation of the Croke Park agreement had called for greater urgency.

“I don’t need to remind people here of the huge challenge we still face in closing the budget deficit.

“I believe that it is in the interests of us all – the Government, the taxpayers, trade unions and public service employees – to accelerate the process of change in the public service.”

The Taoiseach’s comment came as the general secretary of Impact, Shay Cody, called for a forum where employers, unions and the Government could address issues such as future pay rounds.

He acknowledged there was no appetite in Government to return to institutionalised social partnership “where workplace, fiscal – and significantly – expenditure matters were discussed and, often agreement reached”.

“We believe, Taoiseach, that consideration should be given to the establishment of a forum like the employer-labour conference that pre-dated social partnership,” Mr Cody said.

“Such a forum could address workplace issues with all parties in the same room . . . Issues like the agency worker directive, whistleblower protections, collective bargaining rights and forthcoming pay rounds are topics that could usefully be discussed in such a forum.”

He added that the absence of such a forum “means that discussions are more often conducted over the airwaves”.

The Taoiseach said a Yes vote in the referendum on the fiscal compact treaty was the best way to ensure the strong flow of investment in jobs in recent months continued. He was very glad that Impact had recognised that a rejection of the treaty would remove that guarantee of funding.