Martin signals aim to bolster social dialogue arrangements

Government engagement with unions, employers and various groups a ‘core’ objective

The Government is to seek to strengthen existing social dialogue arrangements with trade unions, employers and other groups, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

He said engagement with all parts of civil society would be “a core part of how Government does its business”.

As part of the initiative, the role of the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) is to be boosted while Ministers are to hold talks with the main social partner representative groups on a new approach to dialogue.

The former system of social partnership between the Government, unions, employers, farmers, social justice campaigners and others collapsed following the economic crash more than a decade ago and moves by the then government to cut public-service pay. Lower-level arrangements for engagement have been in place for several years.


The Taoiseach said on Tuesday he believed strongly in the importance of social dialogue and of regular and open engagement with all sectors of society.

He said such an approach was "going to be particularly important as we steer our way out of the pandemic . . . In the coming months I look forward to strengthening engagement with all parts of civil society . . . and building on the many existing mechanisms, such as the National Economic and Social Council, the Labour Employer Economic Forum and the Brexit Stakeholders Group."

Social dialogue unit

The Taoiseach and key Ministers are to begin a series of engagements with the main social partner representative groups. This work will be co-ordinated by the social dialogue unit in the Department of the Taoiseach.

The Government also decided following discussions with trade union and employer representatives, to strengthen the existing LEEF which deals with economic and employment issues relevant to the labour market. These include statutory sick pay and the remote working strategy. It played a key role in drawing up the return-to-work protocols after the fist Covid-19 lockdown.

“The Government has agreed to build on this with a stronger role for sub-groups dealing with issues such as housing, pensions, childcare and aviation, as well as stepping-up levels of discussion generally with employers and trade unions on other relevant issues of mutual interest.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent