Fianna Fáil in pledge to address teacher pay gap and health staff retention

Micheál Martin says social partnership got out of hand prior to its collapse in 2009

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.


Fianna Fáil would, if returned to government, give priority to ending the two–tier pay structure in teaching and to tackling problems affecting the recruitment and retention of nurses, party leader Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin also said that social partnership became “too big” and got “out of hand” during the economic boom and that there was no appetite for its return.

However, in an address to the Industrial Relations News annual conference in Dublin on Thursday, he called for greater dialogue between the Government and unions, employers and other groups.

Mr Martin also said that, in government, Fianna Fáil would stop short of introducing any legislation making trade union recognition mandatory. He said his party would abolish zero –hours contracts and other exploitative work arrangements.

He said recruitment gaps emerging in schools and the inability to hire and retain nurses in the health service were damaging the country.

“We need to be very careful about what is going in the science subjects and the absence of physics teachers, maths teachers and chemistry teachers,” he said.

Mr Martin said staff retention in the health service was a chronic issue and that while everything could not be addressed immediately, Fianna Fáil would consider these to be priorities as they were causing damage.

Democratic deficit

He acknowledged issues regarding social partnership –which was associated for many years with Fianna Fáil – and said there had been a democratic deficit involved in the process.

“To a large extent it (social partnership ) was a very good model in terms of getting the country to emerge from the crisis in the 1980s. However, when the boom times came it was not the best to deal with that. It became far too big.”

Mr Martin said attitudes of Ministers towards social partnership differed depending on their portfolios. He said that when he was minister for education he was able to get some things done under social partnership’s provisions and structures which he found quite effective.

“However, when I was minister for enterprise, looking at inward investment and stuff like that, you would be screaming blue murder at times at some of the stuff that would be coming through which we would see as potentially damaging to our capacity to bring companies in. “

He said the current process in place – the national economic dialogue between the Government, unions employers and other groups – was not strong enough. He suggested that “maybe there should be something in between” it and social partnership.

Mr Martin said broad agreements remain the best approach to managing pay issues in the public service. He said a free for all would damage everybody.

“Inevitable conflict would undermine the status of the public service, threaten funding for services and distract from the agenda of improving these services.”

Mr Martin also told the conference that the damage to Ireland from every feasible Brexit scenario would be significant.

“I remain convinced that the only practical solution for Northern Ireland and the Border region is a form of special economic zone”, he said.

Mr Martin said Ireland should and could “ secure from the EU the right to use State aid for industries hit by Brexit and we should be willing to do this for at least a lengthy transitionary period”.