SIPTU detects no cause for alarm

 

The latest inflation figures have been seized on by trade union leaders opposed to the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness to boost the vote against a new national agreement. Balloting on the PPF by many unions concludes tomorrow.

However the leader of the state's largest union, SIPTU president Mr Des Geraghty, said the 4.3 per cent rate was well within the range predicted in negotiations on the PPF and provided no cause for alarm. At the same time he criticised the Government for the inflationary impact of last December's Budget, which had been introduced outside the framework of national agreements.

Inflation was "set to rise until mid-year and then fall back again closer to 3 per cent", he said. "That is one of the key reasons why we succeeded in negotiating a package almost twice the value of the last agreement." Take-home pay after tax would be 10 or 12 per cent this year, "obviously well ahead of inflation".

The deputy general secretary of Mandate, Mr John Douglas, took a different attitude. "We have always said this was a bad deal for low paid workers, but the rate of inflation is making it look an increasingly bad deal for everyone." The Irish secretary of the ATGWU, Mr Mick O'Reilly, a leading opponent of national agreements, characterised the 4.3 per cent inflation figure for the February year end as "the final nail in the coffin of the PPF". The vice president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Mr Joe O'Toole, who is facing significant opposition to the PPF in his own union - the Irish National Teachers' Organisation - was quick to point out that, if "over inflation" occurred, Congress would be insisting on a review of the terms of the PPF.

IMPACT's general secretary, Mr Peter McLoone, warned against trade unionists abandoning a national agreement "to chase after inflation", although unions must ensure the rate was "kept under control.