Budget 2024 must restore Social Dialogue

Posted on Wednesday, 23 August 2023
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A robust social dialogue process is urgently required to deal with the many multi-faceted and integrated challenges that Ireland faces. These challenges will not be resolved overnight, but real progress can be made through a social dialogue process where current and future challenges can be addressed in a positive manner, and where all stakeholders are included in the decision-making process through a structure where reasoned and evidence-based debate forms the basis for decisions about the most appropriate allocation of limited resources, ensuring that they are targeted at those most in need. 


Government, trade unions and employers, the community and voluntary pillar, as well as farmers and the environmental pillar must all be a part of this process.  It should begin developing a new social contract which would commit the state and social partners to improving economic management with a view to enhancing the standard of living, quality of life and wellbeing of all the Republic’s residents. 

The cost-of-living crisis, the housing crisis and the energy crisis are just three of the challenges facing Government, albeit the ones having the most immediate and dramatic impact on peoples everyday lives.  There are other huge challenges that Ireland faces in areas such as low pay, healthcare, childcare, public transport and how to deliver vital services to everyone including those fleeing war and how to meet our climate targets whilst protecting those most impacted. 

In discussing inflationary pressures, public services and related social welfare and budget issues in the Labour Employer Economic Forum, Government is excluding key stakeholders including, farmers, the community and voluntary pillar and the environmental pillar, who represent many service providers and many of those households most impacted, by this discussion.  While employers and trade unions have much to contribute to tackling poverty and social exclusion, investment in social infrastructure and meeting climate targets, this should not be used to justify the exclusion of those who work on these issues as their primary concern.  

If Government is serious about our long-term wellbeing, about securing our public finances in a changed world, decarbonising the economy, transforming our energy sector and preparing for digital and technological transformation, then it needs a structure that would engage all sectors at a national level. Government’s own commitments on climate require far-reaching changes from all sectors if we are to meet the 2030 targets.  These changes will impact on everyone.  When groups have been involved in shaping decisions, they are far more likely to take responsibility for implementing these decisions, difficult as they may be.  

Government put a new social contract and a focus on the wellbeing of Irish people at the heart of the Programme for Government. If it is to deliver on this, then a new social dialogue is required to come to a consensus on the standard of living that people want and agree on, and, how this is to be delivered and financed.  Budget 2024 can begin this process, by investing excess windfall profits in areas where we have infrastructure deficits, and by ensuring everyone in society has a minimum social floor below which they do not fall and by putting key community values before unbridled profit.

Budget Choices 2024 is available to download here.