Plan 'only show in town' - Begg


The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has said that it is disappointed with aspects of the Governments new proposals for economic recovery. However speaking after a meeting of ICTU’s executive council, its general secretary David Begg said that the Government proposal were “the only show in town”.

Mr Begg said the Ictu’s members would not expect to walk away when it could influence events. He said that Ictu did not have sufficient information to make a judgements on the proposals and would be seek clarifications.

The Government is proposing a number of measures to help with economic recovery, including places in further education programmes, training and work experience places for the unemployed, and new temporary employment subsidy scheme support jobs.

Mr Begg said that there had been concerns raised at the meeting about the scale, scope and application of the measures proposed and he added that these needed refining.

He said that the council had voiced unhappiness that the Governments new Temporary Employment Subsidy Scheme had been limited to the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors.

Mr Begg said the that he could see no prima facie reason for the exclusion of other sectors such as construction and services from the new scheme

The union leader said that there were also concerns at the proposal to suspend a review of the minimum wage until 2011. However he said the it would continue to be a floor for wage formation in the economy.

The Government has suggested suspending a review of the minimum wage as part of the proposals presented to the social partners last night.

The draft document suggests that, in light of the changed economic climate, the review of the National Minimum Wage by the Labour Court should be suspended until 2011, unless inflation returns to the levels seen at the end of September 2008.

The Government said it was proposing the suspension to help maximise sustainable jobs.

Increases in the minimum wage to date have outstripped inflation since its introduction in 2000. Figures from the Department of Finance show the rate has risen cumulatively by 54 per cent, while inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index has increased by 37 per cent in the same period.

The issue of the national minimum wage rate is being considered by the Labour Court.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has said it is seeking an increase, a move that is strongly opposed by employers' body Ibec.

"Companies simply cannot afford an increase and any rise will result in job losses. No increase is justified," Ibec said.

However, the document also said that agreements already reached to pay the first or second phase of pay increases should be honoured.

"Nothing in this agreement will prevent payment by an employer of the first and/or second phase of the Transitional Agreement on a voluntary and exceptional basis," it said.