22 Mar

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The Best Deal Through Negotiation – Is It Really?

22 Mar

The argument offered by the leadership of the the public service unions advocating a yes vote – IMPACT, PSEU and SIPTU (the union the leadership of which is campaigning for a Yes vote without making a recommendation to its members – square that circle, I dare you) is a truly remarkable piece of sophistry. In other words, it is a half concealed piece of fiction.

arm wrestle

No negotiation without power

The argument is that union members should vote ‘yes’ to have their already severely depleted pay and conditions further rifled because this is the best deal that could be won by negotiation. Leave aside for a moment whether or not this is a logical statement, whether the effect follows from the putative cause and let’s see if the argument holds water even within its own limited terms.    For it to be true, one simple requirement is that the unions must have actually tried negotiation to see what deal could they achieve. Has there actually been any negotiating?

The word ‘negotiation’ is not a synonym for ‘talk’ or ‘listen’ or ‘beg’ or ‘plead.’ It has nothing at all to do with the latter two words and, while the first two  are necessary for the process, they are in no sense at all sufficient to amount to negotiation. Negotiation does indeed involve communication but a very particular kind of communication, one which can only occur between two parties who view each other as possessing roughly similar power. Power means the capacity to employ or withdraw resources to the benefit or detriment of the other side. In such circumstances of relative equality, negotiation involves a process of communication where each side endeavours to assess the power of the other side and, more importantly, the extent to which it is willing to employ its power or resources to get its way.

Negotiation only exists when there is a threat of force available to each side. The objective of the communication system is to estimate how far each side can be pushed before it will resort to force. Obviously, if one side knows that the other does not have the power to back up its demands, while at the same time knowing that the greater power is on its side, then in logic it should not yield in negotiation because it stands to get its way by force. If however, it possesses power but lacks the will to use it and, if the other side should sense that this is the case, then the shoe is on the other foot. Power, which can be relied on not to be used, is the same as no power at all. Continue reading

Public Service Workers to Protest Against Croke Park 2 on Monday 11th in Tralee

7 Mar

The Kerry Public Service Workers’ Alliance is mounting a street protest against the government’s proposals contained in the new “Croke Park” and has launched  a campaign for a resounding No vote from union members.

Protest March 11_revised (1)

At a well-attended meeting in Tralee on Wednesday evening   grassroots members from SIPTU, IMPACT, INTO, PNA, ASTI, UCAT, TUI, AGSI, TEEU and the GRA expressed outrage at:

  • the government for breaking the Croke Park 1 agreement 16 months before it was due to expire.
  • the scale of what is being demanded of public service workers  in pay cuts and extra unpaid work.
  • the manner in which many union officials are effectively functioning as the frontline of a government assault on their members.

The message was clear: it is time for ordinary union members to become active and to fight what many feel is the last stand for trade unions in the country.

There were positive stories of similar alliances springing up to fill the vacuum being left by paid officials and many suggestions as to how people can contribute. These included the sharing of information about the content of the proposals, lobbying of local TD’s and Councillors, an email campaign, and spreading the message about the devasting impact the cuts would have on the Kerry economy. People volunteered to spread the word of the fightback through all forms of media, social and otherwise.

Everyone was encouraged to discuss the proposals and their impact with their colleagues. It was noted  that we must be sure to include both students, who will face years of penury should the proposals be accepted, and retired members, as their pensions are in the cross hairs.

The meeting resolved to make the general public, politicians and union leaders aware of the strength of feeling amongst public service workers by holding a demonstration at 5pm on Monday March 11th on Denny Street in Tralee. A free bus will run from Killarney for those who would like to attend from there. All are encouraged to attend – there may even be a special guest!


28 Feb

Telling people, ‘I told you so’ is not popular. Sometimes it has to be said. Kerry Public Service Workers Alliance warned that Croke Park 1 was a return contractinvitation to rob us blind. Even we never envisaged our union leaders being in again, handing over more great dollops of our pay and conditions to a rapacious Government 18 months before the last deal had run its course.

Think about it. We had signed a deal – a terribly foolish one for us. But a deal, nonetheless, an agreement both parties were meant to abide by. The objective was to save us from further demands at least until mid 2014.

The economy has not worsened. We are exactly where any half-assed economist would expect us to be – scraping along the bottom, as we were before, because money is being haemorrhaged out of the economy. That is exactly what austerity can be expected to do according to the laws of economics. How is it possible, then, that we are now expected to hand over more cash?

What on earth led our union leaders to go back in again a year and a half early to help the Government figure out the best way to divide public servants and screw an extra €1,000,0000 out of us?

I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here

A little quiz: is Jack O’Connor loyal to
a. SIPTU members? b. Eamon Gilmore?

The union leaders – the club of General Secretaries – are traitors. They are there to do the government bidding – to deliver the public servants. In the KPSWA, we said so from the beginning. Can anyone now be left in doubt? If so, their logic would make interesting reading. We’d love to hear from them.

What about our union Executive Committees? Union members elect them. Surely they cannot also be stooges of Fine Gael and the Labour party? How did they not stop this train to ruin from leaving the station? We can only conclude that a mixture of incompetence and treachery is to blame. They can’t all be political infiltrators but, make no mistake, quite a few are.

It is now time for every trade union member to question where exactly the loyalties of their representatives lie. If they should have connections in any way with the government parties, would you not say it is time to scrutinise them very closely indeed? As for the others, they have to be either fools or outnumbered dissidents. The last group exists but there has to be a great many of the former because it is doubtful if the political parties have been able to pack the executives of unions so effectively.


“Down with that kind of thing” say the union leaders

What of the argument that it is better to negotiate because otherwise the government will do much worse to the public servants. If ever there was a contemptible argument, this has to be one.

Think it through. If the Government has the power to do what it likes, why should it bother to negotiate? Clearly, in the Government’s eyes there must be a big difference between getting the union leaders to dupe their members , getting them to willingly hand over their money and conditions of employment on the one hand and legislating to take the same things by force on the other.

Could it be the case that Eamon Gilmore knows full well that, in the teeth of clamouring opposition from public servants country-wide, he would not be able to get his backbenchers through the lobbies to support the necessary legislation? It would, of course, be political suicide for all Labour deputies – the old guard (Rabbitte, Quinn, Gilmore himself) don’t care; most of them will not stand for election again. The backbenchers care. They want to retain their seats. Looked at like that, imposition is not an inviting option at all for Labour – the party comes asunder and the Government falls.

Let’s think a little more about how things look from the Government side. The whole nonsense of the austerity programme on which it bases its entire strategy requires a quiescent and passive public. The last thing the Government wants is a big industrial relations battle with the public servants. Oh dear! What will the markets think? What will the ECB and IMF think? No! No! We can’t have public dissent because austerity is no good on its own. It must be accepted quietly. Otherwise, the markets get spooked fearing that the Irish might not continue to buy this nonsense for very much longer.

That is where the union leaders come in. If they can deliver the public servants, then you can have both austerity and quiescence all at once. The markets are satisfied. Fine Gael and Labour are happy, therefore. But if there is a big spat with the public servants, they are happy no longer. Then we start to look like Greece.

The Chopper Chopra: Social Partnership Goes Global

Oh Dear! What will Mr.Chopra think?

We have the whip hand if we could only realise it. Of course our union leaders are absolutely determined to make sure we don’t find that out. Why did they let the pension levy happen? Why did they let the pay cuts happen? Why did they undermine our strike action last time round and rush back into talks?

Only if you grasp that they are traitors does any of this make sense. Why do they never talk about strike or industrial action? Why did they rush into talks so early in advance of the end of Croke Park 1?

To catch us unaware  of course.As this year progressed into next, you and I would be preparing to resist the imposition of a successor deal. They knew if they caught us napping, they might ram it through before we could all get our act together. The objective is to make sure we never realise our strength or the weakness of the Government.

Up to now it has worked a dream – for them. Will it work this time? That’s up to you and I and every other you and I in the public services.

We must all vote NO. That will not be enough. Immediately the votes start going in the wrong direction, the General Secretaries will have their plans laid for how to divide public servants against each other. They will be back into talks in a flash to rejig the deal so as to fragment and isolate the opposition. That is what we have to prevent. That is what our Executive Committees have to prevent and we the members have to make them do so.

KPSWA aims to show how this can be done. Keep with us. Pass on our messages.

The Labour Relations Commission: a Noxious Mix of the Malign and the Ineffectual

9 Jun

Apparently, the Labour Relations Commission is now beset with an explosion of rights cases from workers claiming unfair treatment by their employers in one way or the other. Given the opportunist tack taken by employers following the economic collapse, this is probably not very surprising.

As the Irish economic crisis enters a new phase, bodies such as the LRC are being put under increased pressure. The mounting contradiction of forcing ordinary working and unemployed people to cover the extraordinary debts accumulated by the wealthy is continuing to cause crisis after crisis for the government. And the LRC has been key to greasing the wheels of this scandalous expropriation.

Even more insidiously, many of the members of the Commission play multiple roles, including as parties to high-profile disputes. The actions of the LRC then take on a much more political complexion and it is worth looking more closely at exactly who is on the Commission and how they got there.

The inescapable fact is that the Labour Relations Commission consists of  Fianna Fáil hacks, failed union and government officials seeing out their golden years, employer hawks, old hands at the partnership game, capped by a Chair with links to child labour and sweatshops.

Continue reading

The Tumultuous State of Irish Academia

20 May

The left wing of the right wing wrings its hands

These are scary times.” Thus blogged Prof. Ferdinand von Prondzynski just over a year ago during his tenure as President of DCU. And while the good professor has since moved on to pastures hopefully greener (as Vice-Chancellor of Robert Gordon University in Scotland), the tumultuous state into which Irish third level education was then descending has, if anything, become ever more tumultuous.

Aside from the continuing furore over academic standards which had originally gotten FvP into a flap, the sector has since had to deal with a series of rolling crises, none of which have found any resolution. In this post we document these eruptions, the internal power struggles gripping the sector and the corporate executive culture that has left the upper echelons bare-arsed in a chill political wind.

Putting this together with the scandals that have rocked the sector and the unrelenting pillorying by the likes of Independent News and Media, the medium term effects for the country’s education system will be dire. The seamless policy transition from FF/Green to FG/Labour and the continued spineless response of the representatives  of the academic staff will ensure:

  • dramatically increased costs for students
  • sharply declining educational standards
  • no new courses offered for years to come
  • annihilation of third level lecturing as a viable career choice
  • abolition of tenure
  • significant erosion of academic freedom

The common denominator in these developments has been a corporate takeover of third level education. This has had a corrosive effect: laying waste to educational standards, feeding excesses in the upper echelons, misdirecting funding, lowering the standing of education in society and undermining the educational ethos within the institutions. We will attempt to draw out these aspects of what is an on-going fiasco in an important strand in Irish society.

Continue reading

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20 May

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