ICTU calls off pension strike to enter talks
IRELAND - The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has called off next week's planned one-day national strike over pensions, and is returning to talks with the government over the development of an "integrated national response".
Trade unions have taken various forms of industrial action, following the introduction of a 'pension levy' by the government at the beginning of March, to protest against what they describe as a pay cut, and the ICTU has been calling on the government to adopt a 10-point plan which includes the abolition of the levy.
As talks between unions and government had failed to resume, ICTU had arranged a national strike, in conjunction with its affiliated unions including the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) and The Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU). (See earlier IPE article: Teachers to take action over Irish levy)
But Brian Cowen, the Taoiseach, this week invited ICTU alongside other stakeholders, including the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC), to re-engage with talks to develop an "integrated national response" to the economic crisis.
In a letter, Cowen confirmed the government is "preparing to announce further measures on 7 April to address the deteriorating situation" in a supplementary budget, but added as there is the potential for a further severe impact on jobs and living standards he has invited social partners to "engage as a matter of urgency with the government, in seeking to develop and conclude a National Agreement".
The executive council of ICTU has confirmed it has accepted the invitation and "has therefore deferred all action planned for March 30, pending the outcome of talks and the April 7 Budget".
The CPSU, however, has decided to continue with its campaign of industrial action, including a lunchtime protest at all government offices today, as Blair Horan, general secretary of the CPSU, told members in a circular "it is essential that CPSU action against pay cuts continue in advance of the expected talks with government".
Commenting on the lunchtime strike, Horan added: "This a very important part of our campaign which shows publicly our opposition to the pension levy."
Elsewhere, Enda Kenny, leader of the opposition political party Fine Gael, said ICTU's decision to call off the co-ordinated strike "comes as a relief in the light of the inevitable chaos that would have occurred".
He added: "In these trying economic times, we need to work harder than ever to prompt the recovery the country so desperately needs. Strikes are not a solution and would further damage our reputation abroad. ICTU are to be commended in this regard."
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