With the return to economic growth, the issue of wage increases has raised the head. Jack O`Connor, SIPTU`s general president, recently said his union will launch a major campaign to raise wages by 5% across the economy in the coming months. In response to SIPTU`s comments, IBEC, the group representing Irish affairs, said that proposals that either the economy or the government could afford to raise wages by 5% this year were ruthless, stupid and totally disconnected from economic reality. The question, therefore, is whether there should be a forum that includes unions and employers to discuss compensation issues, but also other economic and social issues that are relevant to ensuring a climate of peace in labour relations. The process was launched in 1987, after a period of high inflation and low economic growth, which led to an increase in emigration and unsustainable public debt and public debt. The strike and wage moderation were important outcomes of the agreements, which was considered an important contribution to the phenomenon of the « Celtic tiger ». Previously, agreements had been negotiated at the local level since 1981; Over the past decade, national employer trade union agreements and « national agreements » have been the norm, but have come under increased pressure. Finally, Charlie Haughey`s new Fianna-Fail government, in collaboration with the ICTU and employers` organizations, negotiated a new centralized political agreement with the ICTU – the key to the acceptance of wage moderation by trade unions in the interest of national competitiveness (to complement the gains from the 1986 monetary devaluation). In return, trade union leaders would only end their strategy of wage inflation and industrial militancy if they were granted political access to the political levers of the state (especially fiscal policy). The unions had left the road and it was the beginning of twenty years of national « social partnership ».
The seventh social partnership contract entitled « Towards 2016 » was concluded in June 2006 for a period of up to the beginning of 2008. These provide for cumulative wage increases, set at 10.4 hours over 27 months, with minor adjustments for those earning less than 400 euros per week. The Wages and Policies Pact also includes stronger enforcement measures to protect employment and meet established labour standards. Its social and social objectives are based on a relaxed social-democratic commitment of ten years to improve the delivery of social benefits and public services. Sustaining Progress was implemented from January 2003 to December 2005 by setting centralized national wage increases and providing for political agreements in Densopers, education, health and employment. This was the sixth part of the neo-corporatist agreements concluded since 1987, with the details of the national wage agreement, negotiated in two separate tranches, which largely spread over the years 2003-4 and 2005-6. As the economy recovers from the recession, there is talk of a return to social partnership. Could that happen? Not after taoiseach Enda Kenny.
In response to a parliamentary question on 20 January, he said: « We are not going back to social partnership as it was. » But does this exclude a different and easier form of social partnership or social dialogue? There is clearly much more, or there should be many more national wage agreements than the « competitiveness » guarantee. Hence the assertion that; « Outside the public sector, it has been assumed that the government no longer needs private sector unions to ensure national competitiveness or to ensure industrial and political stability, », in the case of those who share this view, it shows a very short-sighted and, indeed irresponsible, view of the role of government in setting wages in an economy or in the implementation of national economic and social policies.