Construction electricians won extra increase for themselves. In a range of private sector companies, as a glance at the current 'SIPTU Report' shows, local productivity, gainsharing and 'partnership' deals, or even straight 'above the odds' settlements, are producing extra pay above P2000. Also, published statistics are consistently above the P2000 terms. What's happening?
There is nothing mysterious about profits and non-wage incomes flying above wage rises when you have a national norm that restrains wages only. But what of the disparities in the wage sector, and the departure of wage statistics from the terms of P2000? Statistics use average earnings, so let's put aside overtime, etc. and concentrate on all these wage increases.
Here's the picture. On the one hand the unions are signed up to P2000 with even official inflation paralleling pay rises now. Outside of that high-tech semi-professionals in some areas are having cash thrown at them. There's simply no incentive for them to join up the four and a bit per cent the Unions have delivered. The same could be said for P2000.
Within P2000 strong sectors, or confident sectors, have wrenched rises way above the basic terms, even when productivity, etc. is taken into consider-ation, and fair balls to them. But why should the rest of us be confined to the strict terms? In the private sector highly profitable firms have been able to give a little extra, no problem, on the good side; and productivity and concessions, on the bad side, have produced other special increases.
No wonder ISME have said P2000 is dead in the water! Would it were so. Because it appears that all these exceptions are exceptions. A large body of trade union members are subject to strong wage restraint and will continue to be so unless they defy P2000. This is borne out by Peter Cassels who speaks in his 'Irish Times' interview of the middle 50%-60% of trade union members, running to stand still. A recent 'Irish Banking Review' would seem to corroborate this view of general wage restraint.
The picture is that all kinds of elastic deals that disfigure P2000 out of all proportion, all kinds of local side settlements, will be tolerated as long as P2000 remains to ensure the unions are on side and the union leaders keep their place at the table and, it seems, to ensure that the letter of P2000 wage rises applies to a significant proportion of union members.
But what happened to centralised bargaining; the strong holding back for the weak and all that guff? It seems some can go ahead as long as no links are made with the rest. To combat that, union leaders will go further than restraining claims; they will openly say that people who have nothing to do with them, or P2000, i.e. the Gardaí, should NOT get a pay rise above a certain level, even if their employer would pay it.
Despite attempts to consolidate or shore up P2000, with workplace partnership below, and calls for better budgets above, and gainsharing deals in between, Partnership 2000 looks like continuing to be viewed as more hole-y than holy.
At a recent meeting in Liberty Hall, SIPTU members employed in Ireland's higher education sector agreed to form a united front in dealing with pay negotiations under the local bargaining clause of the PCW, even though the workers are represented by different SIPTU branches throughout the country.
Staff in third level colleges are paid by the Higher Education Authority, which in turn is funded by the Department of Education and ultimately, the Department of Finance. Both the PCW and P2000 called for significant changes in efficiency and flexibility from the public service, in return for pay increases that were completely out of line with the productivity being demanded.
Despite the massive increase in student numbers over the last ten years, which has led to a significant increase in work for everyone from cleaners and maintenance staff to administrators and lecturers, the HEA is offering education sector workers a maximum payment of 5.5%, on the basis that they would be in breach of the partnership agreements if they paid any more. The HEA is also insisting on productivity levels and changes in work practices that would be like writing a blank cheque for college managements if they were accepted.
SIPTU's Education Branch, which represents all grades of workers in the Dublin third level institutions, has agreed that their minimum position in the negotiations is payment of the 5.5% for productivity already given, and that the negotiations must be on the basis of further payments which would be more in line with others in the public sector, like the nurses and the Gardaí. Both of these groups got offers outside the partnership restrictions because they took action to support their case.
SIPTU's members in colleges throughout the country have agreed that the management agenda is unacceptable and they are calling on SIPTU's national officers to state their position unequivocally. Further national meetings of activists are planned, to develop a common approach based on the resolution of the Education Branch to ensure that public sector workers get a fair share of the huge economic growth from which they have been excluded.