Now showing 1 - 4 of 4
  • Publication
    Ireland: life after social partnership
    What conclusions can be drawn from the trajectory of collective bargaining in Ireland over the past 20 years or so? The most important institutional change brought by the recession is undoubtedly the end of social partnership, which had dominated the Irish industrial relations scene since 1987. The picture is now one in which national bipartite agreements take place, but only in the public sector and with significantly less scope than in the past. In addition, the government has shown a willingness to impose unilateral legislation when bipartite agreements have been rejected by a majority of union members. In the unionized private sector, bargaining has been decentralized to the firm level, but until 2017 collective agreements could perhaps be described as a variant of ‘pattern bargaining’, due to the coordinated pay strategy of some of the larger Irish unions. Despite relatively strong economic growth, a return to centralized tripartite bargaining in the form of the social partnership seems unlikely, as the ruling centre-right Fine Gael government has consistently ruled it out, and IBEC have reduced the industrial relations function of their organization. Given the ‘Faustian’ character of social partnership agreements and the potential for increased members’ involvement outside centralized bargaining, even for the unions a return to social partnership may not be the most favourable option. Despite the voluntarist tradition of Irish industrial relations, the role played by state regulation throughout the past fifteen years has been significant. First, several pieces of legislation aimed at increasing individual workers’ rights have been introduced, mostly in response to EU directives. Second, a statutory minimum wage has been enacted and some sectoral wage-setting mechanisms have been reintroduced. Third, the Industrial Relations Act 2015 attempted to address the problem of union recognition, after the Supreme Court’s judgment in 2007 made the previous legislation dealing with the issue ineffective. Finally, the Workplace Relations Act 2015 attempted to simplify the dispute resolution system. These developments suggest a continuation of the shift towards a rights-based system, in which the roles of collective bargaining and collective labour law are reduced in favour of legally binding and individual dispute resolution mechanisms. The most worrying aspect for Irish trade unions is the sharp decline in union density, which had started during the 1990s and continued into the 2000s. Union density remains significantly higher in the public than in the private sector, and is declining in key sectors dominated by MNCs, which are adopting union avoidance practices, although some important manufacturers, such as Apple, are unionized. Other explanations for the fall in unionization include changing attitudes and public opinion toward unions; the lack of an enforceable legal framework for union recognition; the increase in individual employment rights ‘displacing’ the role of unions; and the passive attitude of some trade unions towards recruitment during the years of social partnership. To this should be added structural factors, such as the relatively higher growth of employment in sectors and occupations that are generally associated with lower unionization rates. Since the crisis, and subsequent adjustment, unions have aimed at institutional renewal, setting up organizing departments and increasing workplace action, both in the service and manufacturing sectors. Examples of this include a successful campaign in the cleaning sector to re-establish the sectoral wage agreement, as well as the coordinated bargaining strategy that started in the manufacturing sector, and was then extended to service sectors, such as retail and banking. An important recent development involved Ryanair, where pilots organized through the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association forced the company to pledge to recognize the union thanks to a transnationally coordinated campaign. As this chapter has argued throughout, especially after the end of social partnership, union density matters in the Irish context, as state support for collective bargaining institutions is low. Whether these initiatives will be able to reverse the trend of union density and collective bargaining coverage as it has developed over the past 20 years is the key challenge for Irish trade unions.
  • Publication
    Celtic phoenix or leprechaun economics? The politics of an FDI led growth model in Europe
    (University College Dublin. Geary Institute, 2017-01) ;
    In this paper we argue that Ireland’s post-crisis economic recovery in Europe was driven by foreign direct investment (FDI) from Silicon Valley, and whilst this growth model was made possible by Ireland’s low corporate tax rates, it was also a result of these firms using Ireland to directly access the European labour market. We evidence this contention via sectoral and geographic analyses while simultaneously showing that Irish fiscal policies have not redistributed gains from the recovery to the broader population. As a result, the economic recovery has been most actively felt by those in the FDI sectors, including foreign-national workers from the EU and beyond. We suggest that this experience indicates that Ireland’s FDI-led model of economic development has created clear winners and losers, with significant distributional implications. The FDI growth regime been made possible by inward migration and European integration, but given the unequal distribution of the economic benefits that this generates, it is unlikely to be politically, or electorally, sustainable.
  • Publication
    These Little PIIGS Went to Market: Enterprise Policy and Divergent Recovery in European Periphery
    (University College Dublin. Geary Institute, 2015-08-25) ;
    The 2008 financial crisis hit few places harder than the European periphery, where five states, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain, came to be collectively known as the 'PIIGS'. Yet while the PIIGS experienced a similar adjustment to the crisis, the recoveries have shown significant divergence. Ireland, in particular, has stood out as a beacon of growth, not only in the PIIGS but in all of Europe. We challenge the prevailing narrative that Ireland’s exemplary performance is due to its early and ardent adaptation of fiscal 'austerity' measures. Instead we argue that Ireland’s path dependent, state-led, 'enterprise policy' situated Ireland to be a recipient of foreign direct investment driven by the low borrowing costs, brought on by the United States' Quantitative Easing (QE) programs. Using quantitative and qualitative investigation we find evidence that the latent enterprise policy mechanism – operationalized via the impact of QE on investment projects into Ireland (vis-à-vis the other PIIGS) - rather than increased wage competitiveness via austerity, accounts for Ireland’s recovery from the crisis.
  • Publication
    The politics of austerity in Ireland
    (Springer, 2013-01) ;
    Since the onset of the sovereign debt crisis, the crisis-stricken countries in Europe have been pushed to take drastic steps to consolidate their finances and reduce their budget deficits. Despite strong public opposition and largely damaging short-run effects, the countries have undertaken many of the internationally recommended/mandated reforms and spending cuts. In this Forum, authors from Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Portugal report on the fiscal consolidation achieved in their respective countries — and the sacrifices that have made it possible. Furthermore, the authors detail what remains to be done to resolve the crisis.
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