Republican News · Thursday 10 February 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Partnership failures outweigh benefits

BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN

The final elements of the new partnership agreement were settled this week but as An Phoblacht goes to print the actual detail of what has been agreed is not in the public domain, despite days of news coverage on the deal.

 
The new agreement has failed to deliver on real wage increases, a fair minimum wage, union recognition, child care and adequate social welfare increases
We have a name for the agreement and the core points in the social inclusion pillar have been publicised but the actual text is not available. However, it is clear from the available overview that the new Programme for Prosperity and Fairness has failed to deliver on public expectations that this agreement would make major strides towards social equity in Irish society.

The agreement proposes 1.5 billion in social inclusion measures including a commitment to increasing social welfare payments from 72 a week to 100 over the period of the agreement.

It also proposes raising child benefit for households with three or more children from 56 a month to 100 a month over the lifetime of the agreement. Finally, a package of 200 million will be targeted at the most disadvantaged communities in the 26 Counties.

While these measures are welcome, they fall way short of what was needed. The 100 a week social welfare rate should be delivered this year and the measures on child benefit fall way short of the real increases needed. Combat Poverty and other agencies had sought a payment of 50 a month per child but the partnership negotiators could not agree on such a measure.

This was possibly because the ICTU wanted tax breaks for working parents even though most socially progressive groups argued that the available funds should not be used for tax breaks but diverted to increasing child benefit payments. This would mean that all parents would receive the same monetary amount but this would help families on welfare or low incomes proportionately more. A tax package would have the opposite effect.

As trade union members enter into a period of discussion and debate on the new agreement they will have to face up to the fact that the new deal has failed to deliver on real wage increases, a fair minimum wage, union recognition, child care and adequate social welfare increases.


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