ICTU Executive welcomes opportunities for workers after return of devolution to Stormont

15 Jan 2020

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Welcoming the return of devolution at Stormont and power sharing involving all five major NI parties, ICTU General Secretary Patricia King spoke on behalf of the trade union movement in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as the ICTU Executive discussed the New Decade, New Approach document today in Belfast:

“It is a happy coincidence that the leadership of trade unions on this island is meeting today in Belfast, but there was little coincidence in the achievement of this welcome agreement between the main Northern Ireland parties and we must credit the patient negotiation skills of the UK and Irish government ministers and their officials. As experienced negotiators ourselves, we can appreciate the hard work and attention to detail to reach the significant compromises required by all sides. Naturally, not everybody is happy with every clause and section of this document, but that is the nature of compromises which can be necessary to ultimately achieve long-term goals for our movement and the people we represent.

“We hope now that this determination to negotiate a just settlement applies imminently to the outstanding issues of pay justice for workers across Northern Ireland’s underfunded public services, not only for workers in Health and Education, but also the NI Civil Service. All of these workers have been forced in recent months to undertake industrial action to attain the basic entitlements of a Decent Job – a bearable workload, reasonable hours, safe working conditions and a fair day’s pay. This situation deserves to be resolved and we commend the document for making Pay Justice a top priority.

“Those workers also deserve clarity on funding for their pay settlement, as well as clearly detailed commitments for future funding to complete the remaining priorities recognised by the negotiating parties, many of which have been sought and campaigned for by trade unions for many years, especially the Better Work Better Lives campaign which lobbied in person a majority of MLAs, as well local councillors, most of whom agreed with its core demands of fair pay and investment in services such as childcare, housing, skills, welfare mitigations, workers’ rights and an industrial strategy.”

Ms King’s remarks were complimented by the ICTU President and Chair of NIC-ICTU. Gerry Murphy:

"Congress has been consistent in calling for the restoration of the institutions at Stormont within a framework of equality and human rights, for all. We will continue to hold the new Executive to these standards.

“We note that this deal proposes a formal process to take forward the long-awaited Bill of Rights. However we are concerned that the process proposed departs from the Good Friday Agreement. The deal represents progress on legal recognition of the Irish language, but it has not gone as far as some have campaigned for in delivering on language rights.

“The deal refers to a range of other important rights and equality strategies that will be developed including in relation to gender, disability, racial equality, sexual orientation and anti-poverty. Congress is clear that we want to see all of these strategies developed. We are prepared to play our part in their co-design and are equally determined to see them delivered in a way that genuinely promotes equality of opportunity and realises people’s rights. We remain ready and willing to play a meaningful and constructive role with others to make those just aims a reality."

 Owen Reidy, ICTU Assistant General Secretary added:

“There are a number of elements of the New Decade, New Approach document that at face value seem positive which we in the trade union movement wish to work with government on and develop. We have campaigned for better more inclusive civic engagement and social dialogue over the last two years through our Better Work Better Lives campaign and clearly from section 17, 23, sections 3.8 and 3.9 along with section 4.6.10 they all provide scope for the trade union movement and others to develop capacity for such social dialogue and meaningful engagement.

“Such engagement is particularly important when it comes to making the significant section on employment rights and workers’ rights a reality. We welcome the commitment from the parties forming this new power sharing government that they want to see an end to zero hours contracts, create good jobs and protect workers’ rights. Perhaps from a trade union perspective the most significant section refers to ensuring that workers access good jobs, where workers have a voice that provides a level of autonomy, a decent income, security of tenure and decent working conditions.

“The trade union movement will work night and day with government and others, and will indeed hold government to account, to make this a reality and to promote the fullest concept of fair work for all workers in Northern Ireland,” concluded Mr Reidy.

 

ENDS

For Comment: Owen Reidy – 07802 322902

Contact: John O’Farrell – 07808 582546