Siptu to seek 5% pay rises across public and private sectors

Union chief Jack O’Connor signals campaign to seek €11.45 per hour minimum living wage

Siptu chief Jack O’Connor: Trade union movement is ‘back on the offensive’ to regain ground lost by workers during the recession.  Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Siptu chief Jack O’Connor: Trade union movement is ‘back on the offensive’ to regain ground lost by workers during the recession. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Siptu, the country’s largest trade union, is to seek pay increases of 5 per cent across the public and private sectors.

In a speech to be delivered today, Siptu president Jack O’Connor is also expected to announce that the union will engage in a “battle to establish a minimum living wage of €11.45 per hour”.

Internationally there has been a campaign arguing that a living wage, to allow individuals to make ends meet and not just a national minimum wage, is required.

In Ireland, a living wage of €11.45 per hour has been put forward by a technical group of campaigners, trade unions and think tanks. It estimated that this was the minimum needed to maintain an acceptable standard of living.

It is understood Mr O’Connor will also call on social democrats, left-wing republicans and Independent socialists to join on a common platform with the aim of winning the next general election and establishing the country’s first left-of-centre government.

He is also expected to signal the establishment of a national campaign to pressurise the Government into “commencing the task of abolishing the universal social charge and replacing it with a new mechanism which will be equally efficient as a means of raising revenue from the better off while removing the burden on those on low to middle incomes”.

Economic crisis

Mr O’Connor is to speak in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin to mark the anniversary of the death of union leader James Larkin in 1947. In his speech, Mr O’Connor will argue that the trade union movement was “back on the offensive” to begin regaining ground lost by workers during the economic crisis over recent years.

He is expected to maintain that “difficult compromises”, such as the measures set out in the Croke Park and Haddington Road agreements in the public service and a protocol agreed with private sector employers, were “elements of a rearguard strategy designed to hold as much ground as we could in the face of overwhelming odds”.

It is understood that Mr O’Connor will strongly welcome the election victory of Syriza in Greece last weekend and contend that it signals “the end of nightmare of the one-sided austerity experiment across Europe”.

Concordat

Mr O’Connor is also expected to call for a new “concordat” between labour and capital which would replicate the great post-war settlement that resulted in more than a generation of unprecedented and consistent economic growth.

Mr O’Connor’s comments on pay come as the Government is set to engage in talks with public service trade unions in the months ahead on the rolling back of financial emergency legislation under staff on the State payroll which experienced two, and in some cases three, pay cuts since 2009.

Some Ministers over the last week or so have also hinted at a return of some sort of structured social dialogue with trade unions and employers. The social partnership process involving the Government, unions, employers, farmers, social justice campaigners and others collapsed in late 2009 after the then Fianna Fáil/Green administration introduced pay cuts for public servants.

The Government is currently establishing a Low Pay Commission which, among other areas, is to assess the rate of the national minimum wage which stands at €8.65.