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(en) Workers Solidarity #74 - 'Partnership' deals Mating Season in the Industrial Relations Jungle!

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 1 Mar 2003 12:33:56 +0100 (CET)


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Around Christmas once every three years of so we
enter into a special mating season in the industrial
relations jungle. The mating of three unlikley
species, the goverment, the bosses and the trade
unions takes place. This spectacle is so
spectacularly ugly to witness that it's never covered
by TV cameras. Each mating season is given it's
individual name and this time in 2002/03 attempts
were under way to sire a son to the 'Programme for
Prosperity and fairness'. 

There are very practiced standards and rituals that take
place in the jungle at this time and it's common for the
observer to be fooled into thinking that the mating will be
"called off". The Unions usually break out of the clutches
of the bosses just as they were about to get shafted.

Joe O'Toole (president of the Irish Congress of Trade
Unions) came out sweating from their greasy grip and
hopped from one foot to the other bleeting a promise of
"chaos". Of course this is a standard practice and only
serves to heighten the excitement of the bosses and the
other suitors.

So needless to say the mating finally takes place after
much posturing by the pursued. In this animal kingdom
the heads (leaders) doesn't appear to talk to the body (the
workers) but rather goes though the motions as a matter of
course until such time as the copulation is complete. Then
another bastard deal is usually born to the world - and so it
came to pass.

As it turned out though, things weren't quite so
earth-shattering. Indeed nothing happened. You'd actually
be forgiven for not noticing that it had happened at all.
The unions appear to have gone out of their ways to ensure
that they didn't lodge any claims - or do anything that
might lead to anything resembling "chaos" - apart, that is,
from some ritualistic statements about groups of workers
lodging something called 'headline claims'.

And before anyone had time to blink, Bertie and Mary
arrived in the middle of the night to present a deal and the
period of 'free collective bargaining' had come to an end.
Our 'leaders' had crawled back to the negotiating table,
been suitably chastised by their supposed 'partners' - both
government and employers - and had stitched us up into
another useless deal.

Sure, all of us in a union will get a vote on it but not many
will hear the case against. It won't be found very often in
the media and almost never in any official union
publication.

What this episode tells us more than anything else is the
contempt in which the union leaders hold the ordinary
members. Firstly, they don't give a toss what we actually
want or think. They don't consult with us on whether they
should enter talks, they don't ask us whether they should
walk out, they don't care what our opinion is on whether
they should go back in to talks.

Furthermore they predict "chaos" if ordinary workers and
their shop stewards are entrusted with the task of sitting
down face to face with their bosses to negotiate wages and
conditions. Perhaps, worst of all, they expect us to believe
them when they carry on with their posturing.

The actual content of this latest deal is probably the worst
of any of the social partnership deals. In both the public
and private sectors, the wage increases will not even keep
pace with inflation, meaning that we are in fact being given
a cut in our standard of living. Private sector employers
will of course be able to plead 'inability to pay'.

In the public sector, the 'benchmarking' increases - in
themselves inadequate in many cases - which should have
been paid as part of the PPF, are now to be tied into the
new deal. And in order to receive these increases - which
were supposed to be payment for productivity already
given - public sector workers will be expected to agree a
whole new series of 'modernisation', in other words more
work.

Debating the actual content of the deal misses the point
somewhat, though. The very concept of 'social partnership'
is what must be challenged. The bosses are not our
partners. It's a simple message, but one that the so-called
'leaders' of the trade union movement don't agree with.

Politically and ideologically, the ICTU leadership has
bought fully into 'partnership' In fact ICTU President,
Senator Joe O'Toole, has been described by one political
commentator as "that reliable Government supporter".

Even more important than arguing against the terms of the
deal, what is needed is to put forward real alternative
strategies which will change our unions from meek
participants in 'partnership talks' to fighting democratic
organisations. Such strategies would include the lodging of
and fighting for real pay increases across both the private
and public sectors, using sectoral and cross-industry claims
in order to ensure that weaker groups of workers are not
left exposed.

Furthermore, they would include cash rather than
percentage claims to help the lower paid; solidarity action
for workers in struggle or whose bosses refuse to grant
decent pay rises; the use of the power of the unions to
support the poor and marginalized by demanding and
fighting for, for example, action on the housing crisis, on
hospital waiting lists etc, opposition to anti-union
legislation such as the Industrial Relations Act.

'Partnership' is a myth. It doesn't exist. It should be
consigned to the scrapheap of history.

by Gregor Kerr (INTO member)

_________________

This is a much version of this article then the one that
appeared in the printed version of February 2003 'Workers
Solidarity', for the printed version download the PDF file
http://struggle.ws/wsm/pdf/ws/74.html
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Useful links

 
     Print out the PDF file of #74 - this issue
http://struggle.ws/wsm/pdf/ws/74.html

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