Monday’s national strike deferred

According to RTE, the ICTU have deferred Monday’s national protest day & strike. The Unions have suffered some set backs recently with IMPACT voting narrowly to reject strike action, and the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants voting decidedly against it. More on the RTE report below the fold.

The Indo, which has been running something of a campaign for public spending cuts, reports that the Unions won’t win any concessions but Brian Cowen’s intervention allowed them to save face.

Update 1: A branch of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) are calling on David Begg the ICTU chief to resign over calling off the strike. I am incredulous at this news, Irish teachers are well paid and have great working conditions (teaching time 19 hours per week) – pay scales are available here. Teachers start on a basic salary of €32,599 (£30,154) a mere €3,000 less than the average wage in Ireland, with many additions available (e.g. €3,169 extra for degree holders). In addition their defined benefit pensions are much better than those available in the private sector, and there is less chance of being made redundant. Teachers do a great job in Ireland, and are often under-appreciated but I suspect they don’t realise how good they have it in these difficult times..

Update 2: Siptu have issued a statement on the matter, and detailed what they will be aiming for in negogiations. Hat tip to Mick.

Adds:. Cool heads reigned supreme in the end and the TUI voted in favour of calling of the strike.

Teachers United the group calling for the resignation of David Begg, represents post-secondary teachers in Dublin. The average salary for secondary school teachers in Ireland is €54,340. Public sector wages are funded out of tax revenues (which don’t come close to covering current spending). Personally I think well-paid workers striking is a terrible idea because it runs the risk of reducing future investment that would help fund the Irish exchequer and keep Irish wages high. The government did raise wages in the good times, we have to work together to get through this storm.
From the RTE report –

The executive council of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has announced it is deferring a wave of strikes planned for next Monday.

It comes as union leaders decided to return to talks with the Government on an economic recovery package.

ICTU General Secretary David Begg said unions want the Government to engage with their ten-point plan for economic recovery.

It’s certainly welcome that the strike has been deferred, but worrying that the Unions continue to regard themselves as a Shadow government.

From the Indo –

UNIONS will today dramatically call off a national strike for next Monday in return for a restart of failed pay talks with Government and employers.

But the unions will not get any major concessions in return from the Government ahead of the emergency budget in a fortnight.

The eleventh-hour invitation into a fresh round of social partnership negotiations will allow unions to save face after a public backlash against their plans and some embarrassing votes against the action by key unions.

….

While the unions are now back at the negotiation table, the time left for them to influence where the Government will find the €6bn required in tax hikes, cutbacks and borrowing is limited. The Cabinet is expected to sign off on the budget by Saturday week, and ministers are already half way through their series of intense pre-budget meetings.

Nonetheless, the unions will get the chance to directly lobby the Government on contentious issues such as pay, the pension levy, income tax and social welfare payments, in an effort to protect those on low incomes.

If a deal is reached, it will supersede the pay agreement hammered out last September, which provided for a 6pc pay rise over 21 months.

In an emotive letter to the leader of the trade union movement, David Begg, Mr Cowen urged unions to engage “as a matter of urgency” with the social partners to broker a new national agreement.

The Taoiseach set a strict pre-condition that unions first lifted the threat of action against employers who refused to pay the national wage agreement.

With projected revenues of €35bn and current spending commitments of €55bn and the government planning to borrow around 9.5% this year, spending cuts and tax rises are required to bring borrowing back within the 3% limit of the Growth and Stability pact by 2013. That deadline recently agreed with the European Commission.

Meanwhile the bond market situation continues to improve for Ireland with narrowing spreads on Eurozone government bonds and Credit Default Swaps. While Ireland has low government debt, the spreads on both Irish bonds and CDSs to insure those bonds have been a concern, hinting that the market may refuse to purchase Irish bonds or that there are fears the Irish government may default. The markets seem to be judging these risks to be abating slightly.

Taken together, I hope these are signs that with everyone willing to help and share the load that the country may be beginning to find its way to a solution to the crisis.

No bio, some books worth reading – The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves – Matt Ridley .

Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance -Nouriel Roubini, Stephen Mihm