Trade unions send message for political parties and the two governments, as co-guarantors of the Peace Agreement

30 May 2019

Stormont can deliver for working people:

 The Northern Ireland Committee of ICTU, as the leadership body for trade unions in Northern Ireland, and the largest cross community civic society body in NI, affirms our commitment to the restoration of devolution to Northern Ireland within the framework of equality and rights set out in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements. Many of these commitments reflect the contribution made by the Trade Union movement to the process which resulted in the peace agreement and the establishment of devolved power-sharing Government. NIC-ICTU also affirms our commitment to the protection and full implementation of the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement to achieve an inclusive society that works for all.

During the talks process, NIC-ICTU urges the two governments, as co-guarantors of the Belfast/ Good Friday Agreement, as well as the political parties, to urgently address matters of serious concern to our collective membership of over 200,000 workers and the wider public. We seek firm commitments that action will be taken as part of a coherent, progressive and comprehensive Programme for Government, and where necessary, that legislation will be enacted without delay to address persistent and growing problems in our society.

As part of a range of issues that require urgent attention, we would highlight, in particular:

  • The unconscionable delays in proving redress to two vulnerable and ageing groups of people – survivors of institutional sexual, mental and physical abuse and injured survivors of the ‘Troubles’.
  • The refusal to adequately address public sector pay which has, for the last 10 years, been inadequate and has year on year been setting levels well below the rate of inflation.
  • The looming ‘cliff-edge’ faced by those whose welfare benefits are protected by the mitigations agreed under the ‘Fresh Start Agreement’ and the continued absence of an Anti-Poverty Strategy based on objective need.
  • Action to support the economy, protect rights, jobs, migrant workers and safeguard the wider peace process from an imminent and damaging Brexit.

We are calling for the formation of a permanent Forum for Social Dialogue, comprised of the power-sharing government with the four main representative pillars, namely the trade union movement, employers, community and voluntary sector and farming community. Such a forum could be modelled on the Welsh Council for Economic Development, and could mitigate the harsh edges of Brexit and propose practical and realistic evidence-based policy solutions to the problems our society and economy faces, such as:

  • The scourge of low pay and insecure work across our private sector and the public sector pay cap
  • The declining levels of public investment which is impacting on all citizens after a decade of austerity
  • Not alone protecting, but improving employmentlaw in our devolved NI Assembly, and ensuring collective bargaining as all the evidence shows that this improves economic performance
  • The absence of affordable childcare and decent public housing
  • An agreed industrial strategy that boosts productivity across the economy.

NIC-ICTU as the largest and most representative civil society organisation in Northern Ireland now expects full engagement with this current talks process and awaits confirmation of the date for an initial meeting.