From Socialist Voice, November 2006

Update on Mandate’s pay claim

Mandate is in the throes of an active and robust pay campaign against the country’s huge retail profiteers. Ably led, the union has sidestepped its business opponents and led its brothers and sisters in the trade union movement in striking a blow for local collective bargaining.
    With the advent of the new “social partnership” dates—1 November 2006 and following—Mandate has engaged with its membership in the many relevant employments to determine the validity of their position. All the resulting balloting exercises have provided a resounding rejection of the employers’ pay proposals, i.e. to award the first stage of “Towards 2016” at 3 per cent on all rates.
    The next stage for Mandate is arguably to follow the state procedures in the form of the Labour Relations Commission and Labour Court, where the union will undeniably have to face down the defenders of “social partnership.” After this, Mandate will be compelled to return to its members and unleash their collective will and muscle, as demonstrated by their full validation of the union’s pay stance.
    While IBEC has directed its members not to break the line, some have signalled their intention to engage with the union in respect of its pay claim and how best this might be facilitated. None of these employments are, in any shape or form, small or insignificant. In fact one is a major global company and, if continuing negotiations prove successful, might be the initial crack that breaks the IBEC dam.
    That said, Mandate is loath to store all its eggs in one basket and has wasted no time in rolling out the pay claim strategy in all employments, both local and national. At present it is too early to determine success, but there have been some notable results.
    One employment in the south-west acceded to the divisional organiser’s claim of an increase of €1 per hour for a period of twelve months, with effect from 5 October 2006, followed by an increase of €1 per hour for a further period of twelve months, with effect from 4 October 2007, followed by an increase of €0.25 per hour for a further period of three months, with effect from 4 October 2008. It was further agreed that the employer’s contribution on behalf of employees to the defined-contribution pension scheme will increase from 8½ to 12½ per cent, with effect from 5 October 2006.
    In another employment in the south-west the union successfully negotiated a potential 9 per cent pay increase on all rates of pay from April 2006, with considerably enhanced percentage increases on long-service pay entitlements. Similarly, one of Mandate’s local organisers in the north-west negotiated an increase on the previous hourly earnings of €11.60 to €13.30, with all future partnership and retrospective entitlements intact. This resulted in members receiving back pay of approximately €1,300. Another employment in the north-west has recently agreed to increase hourly rates by 7 per cent, with an agreed pay review in nine months’ time.
    Before Mandate’s pay claim the union negotiated a new national wage structure with a major national retailer. For many Mandate members this resulted in wage increases ranging from 4¼ to 29¾ per cent, averaging a weekly pay increase of €58 (and again protecting all current terms and conditions, current and future partnership increases, and retrospective entitlements).
    Common to the latter results is the fact that they were all achieved without exercising any industrial action and in fact on occasion enjoyed the services of IBEC and the Labour Relations Commission.
    With all this said and done, Mandate’s position on the pay and partnership radar and its success or not remains to be seen. It is clear that the country’s partnership protagonists are united against the vision of this union, which, while maybe having to punch well above its weight, has ideologically responded to the will and interests of its members. These members have consistently and uniformly argued that partnership agreements do not deliver, not only for them but for the country’s low-paid. Repeated representations from the few remaining left-wing trade union leaders at partnership talks have fallen on deaf ears and stony ground.
    If the might and threat of Irish retail business and its ”social-partnership” collaborators dumb down or even see off Mandate’s collective bargaining impact, the union still deserves credit for its efforts not only to be heard and seen but to do the right thing for its members. The struggle continues!

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