Ireland: Latest working life developments – Q1 2018

Private sector pay bargaining, an increase in the voluntary Living Wage, the launch of new trade union Fórsa and a Code of Practice on Longer Working are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Ireland in the first quarter of 2018.

Private sector pay bargaining

The private sector committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) recommended that unions seek ‘compensation for the excessive costs’ of housing, childcare and pensions, ‘in addition to a minimum pay increase of 3.1% to take account of normal productivity and cost of living factors’. In response, the business and employer association for organisations based in Ireland (Ibec) called the 3.1% recommendation ‘wildly unrealistic’ and claimed it would ‘create damaging expectations in the labour market’.

Meanwhile, a survey by Industrial Relations News (IRN) and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) predicted that 2018 pay increases would rise across small, medium and large companies by around 2.8%. Average pay rises for the service sector of 3% are projected to exceed increases of 2.3% for manufacturing jobs.

Employers increase the voluntary Living Wage

The major adopters of the voluntary Living Wage (LW) in Ireland – Lidl, Aldi, SSE Airtricity and IKEA – announced they will implement the new Living Wage rate of €11.70 per hour in 2018, as calculated by the Living Wage Technical Group. In principle, a living wage is intended to establish an hourly wage rate that should provide employees with sufficient income to achieve an agreed acceptable minimum standard of living.

Gender pay symposium

On 10 January 2018, the Government invited policymakers, business representatives, trade unions and academics to discuss measures to address the gender pay gap. In his opening remarks, Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan said the symposium would ‘raise awareness of the factors underpinning the gender pay gap’ and ‘identify the actions that can be taken to address the gender pay gap in Ireland.’

Fórsa union

The quarter saw the launch of the new trade union, Fórsa, in a merger of the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU), IMPACT, and the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU). The union represents over 80,000 members across the civil and public services, commercial and non-commercial semi-state organisations, the community and voluntary sector, and private companies in aviation, telecommunications and elsewhere. It is the second largest union in the country.

Workplace behaviour survey

In newly published findings from the Irish Workplace Behaviour Study, 43% of participants reported experiencing ill-treatment at work in the last two years. 37% had been affected by unreasonable management and 31% had faced incivility or disrespect. 2.6% had faced physical violence. Ill-treatment in the workplace is a broader notion than bullying and is more prevalent in the voluntary sector, but the study found that violence is almost five times more likely to be experienced in the public sector.

Code of practice on longer working

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) published new guidance for employees, employers and their representatives relating to individuals who wish to continue in their career or return to work after reaching retirement age. The Code of practice on longer working from the Workplace Relations Commission highlights best practice in the run-up to retirement and addresses requests to work beyond retirement age.

Commentary

Wage pressure will remain topical for 2018, given the increasing rate of pay increases over the last several years, skills shortages in some sectors, and ongoing housing affordability issues (all amidst global concerns, particularly Brexit). Trade unions will continue to push for the Living Wage as a baseline, particularly in areas of low union density. The government has given no indication it will adopt the Living Wage (€11.70) as a new National Minimum Wage (currently €9.55).

Pay equality for new entrants is likely to be a priority topic in public services, given the restoration of previous cuts applied during the recession and in light of the fact that public service pay is no longer falling. 

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