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.
The cost-of-living crisis and the energy crisis are just two of the post pandemic 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 related areas such as low pay, how to deliver housing, healthcare, childcare, and other vital services to everyone including those fleeing war and how to meet our climate targets whilst protecting those most impacted.
Social Justice Ireland has consistently advocated for a robust social dialogue structure involving all stakeholders. This would help Government to make progress in each of these areas and provide 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.
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.
In the absence of a real social dialogue at national level, the strongest can fight their corner in the open market or in the political realm, while the weakest will be left behind. In such a scenario inequality, already at unacceptable levels, will continue to grow, the rich-poor gap will widen and the integrated development that is required to address the challenges in housing, childcare, healthcare and meeting our climate targets will not be achieved.
Budget Choices 2023 is available to download now.