[Sinn Fein]

14th January 2003

Social partnership - Workers running to stand still

Sinn Fein spokesperson on Community Affairs Seán Crowe TD has called on workers to give ``careful consideration'' to the new partnership proposals and to see if they tackle inequality and promote social inclusion. He also questioned why basic rights like union recognition, compliance with labour legislation and the issue of statutory redundancy were on the negotiating table at all.

Deputy Crowe said:

``Workers voting on the new partnership proposals will have to give them very careful consideration particularly in the context of how it affects them and the wider context of tackling inequality and promoting social inclusion. It seems that this is not a real agreement about social partnership. It is only a wage contract and a weak one at that.

``Employer recognition of unions, compliance with labour legislation and fulfilling of statutory redundancy rights are all basic workplace rights. Why were they on the negotiating table in the first place?

``The minimum wage increase is too small. Why was there no immediate proposal to take low paid workers completely out of the tax net?

``The housing proposals are very weak and a much more solid response based on the analysis of the three Bacon reports as well as the NESF report on social and affordable housing and last year's NESC report prepared specially for the partnership talks are needed. We need targets for reducing waiting lists, homelessness and traveller accommodation. A real partnership agreement would have also dealt with the issues of healthcare, the dire state of primary schools, childcare and tax reform.

``The wage increase elements are barely leaving workers in a stand still position and might not even cover inflation and the cost of the new barrage of stealth taxes introduced by Charlie McCreevy in last December's budget.

``The deferral of full payment of benchmarking until 2005 will severely water down their real value to workers and is a lot to ask public servants, who were promised action on low wages some years ago.

``I would call on workers to take their time and not to rush into an agreement that will not deliver on equality and social inclusion.''

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