24th February 2003
`Sustaining progress' - bad deal for Irish workers
Speaking ahead of a SIPTU consultative conference on the new `Partnership' deal tomorrow, Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Education, Social Welfare and Transport Seán Crowe TD has called on Trade Unionists to oppose `Sustaining Progress' describing it as ``a bad deal for Irish workers, a bad deal for Irish society.''
The Dublin South-West TD said: ``Union members will be balloted in the coming weeks on the sixth partnership agreement Sustaining Progress. This is a bad deal for Irish workers and a bad deal for Irish society. We are calling for a No vote. It fails to offer anything to the weakest sections of our society who depend on the membership of the trade union movement to take a principled stand on building a truly inclusive Ireland of equals.''
He went on to outline seven reasons to say No to 7% which will be the cornerstone of the party's campaign against Partnership and the message we will take directly to the membership of Trade Unions.
The pay elements
The 7% wage increase will not keep pace with inflation, some sectoral groups with more leverage in the workplace will secure additional benefits leaving the low paid and part time workers worse off.
Why are low paid workers still paying tax? Fianna Fail promised to take the low paid completely out of the tax net. They haven't and the partnership negotiations missed a chance to right this wrong. The ¤7 per hour minimum wage is a pittance. Will you endorse an agreement that fails to reward all workers fairly?
This is the first pay agreement in over a decade that doesn't have a tax element. Your income is being eroded through stealth taxes and price rises and the failure to move tax bands in line with inflation. One in three PAYE workers are now paying the top rate of tax while 25% of the highest earners pay no tax at all. This agreement should have included a review conducted by the social partners of all the tax reliefs and loopholes open to the super rich in Irish society.
The housing commitments are a cop out. We should be repealing last December's amendment to the Planning and Development Act and setting targets for tackling local authority housing waiting lists and homelessness.
The first partnership agreement in 1987 included proposals to reduce pupil teacher ratios and improve the quality of education in our schools. Fifteen years on thousands of children are being taught in slum conditions. Is this what partnership was about? We need to force government to make every school a place of learning excellence with the best quality resources for all.
People are dying because of the cuts in the health funding and the lack of basic services like Maternity Units or A&E Rooms. This agreement should have forced the Government's hand to live up to their election promise of a ``world class health service'' for all.
Why did your leadership have to bargain for the right of workers to belong in and be represented by a union and to have proper statutory entitlements to redundancy pay? 10 years ago radical trade unionists were seeking to repeal the Industrial Relations Act. Now you are being forced to bargain for basic rights while Unions will be forced to sign up to compulsory binding arbitration.
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