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IT Sunday: Capital has triumphed over labour and unions are the answer

Wealth generated by the technological transformations of recent decades ‘has been cornered by the very rich’

Welcome to IT Sunday, your weekly briefing of some of the best Irish Times journalism for subscribers.

As the public sector pay talks grind to a halt here, Fintan O’Toole writes that there is a sense we are at a point of profound change. “Democracy can’t survive if the incomes of working- and middle-class people are static or in relative decline.”

Union membership among the young has collapsed and as a result “capital has triumphed over labour”. “The wealth generated by the technological transformations of recent decades has been cornered by the very rich” as the idea of collective power has been undermined. The response, he suggests, is that people need to join a union.

“Even conservative institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Economic Forum recognise that gross inequality is politically, socially and economically unsustainable and that trade unions are crucial to ending it.”

The changing dynamic between employers and employees is also the focus of David McWilliams’s column this week and he notes that employees in many companies today have pricing power which they did not have in the past.

He notes that the contrast between the Jack Welch focus on the bottom line to reward the shareholders and the current employee-focused workplaces could not be starker. And it is all down to pricing power. “The pendulum which has swung far too much in favour of capital is swinging back towards employees and the future is likely to be one where profits are lower and wages are higher. It will take time before this is realised but the process is already under way.”

In his column this weekend Cliff Taylor looks at the fast (and possibly faster) approach of the budget and notes that rarely has a budget been framed during such uncertainty.

“And rarely has there been such pressure to act; to respond to the cost-of-living crisis and deal with longer-term problems in areas like housing and health. The latest figures, showing inflation approaching 10 per cent, have upped the political ante further – and a lot of price pressures have still to feed through to consumers.”

In her column Una Mullally suggests that the way Fine Gael and its leader are behaving – lashing out, blaming others and obsessing over those who call you out – is a classic defence mechanism.

She argues: “Fine Gael is profoundly disconnected, and Varadkar’s leadership and personification of that disconnection has been electorally disastrous for his party. And it continues with his failed tactics of attacking the most popular party in the country. The electorate knows what Fine Gael is against (Sinn Féin), but is mystified as to what the party itself stands for.”

In her column this week, relationships expert Trish Murphy deals with a query from a man who found out that his wife has spent more than €20,000 on different cosmetic surgery procedures.

“My difficulty is that over the past two years, when she was getting this work done, we had both been laid off work and when surviving on the PUP we struggled financially. I knew she had some money from an inheritance put away but at one point when we were unable to buy the family groceries or our growing son clothes, I suggested we dip into her money. She refused, saying it was her inheritance and that she had plans.”

Meanwhile, Roe McDermott responds to a reader who has an attractive girlfriend but feels insecure that “she will realise she could do better than me and move on. Her celebrity crushes and fantasies are all tall and athletic men, which is the complete opposite to me as I’m 5ft 5in and well-rounded.”

As always there is much more on, including extensive coverage of Ireland’s first Test against New Zealand, which ended in heavy defeat for Andy Farrell’s squad, this weekend’s hurling semi-finals, rundowns of all the latest movies in our film reviews, and tips for restaurants to suit all tastes in our food section. You can always check out more articles exclusively available for Irish Times subscribers here.

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