Social Dialogue and a New Democratic Social Contract

Posted on Monday, 7 December 2020
labour force

Patricia King (ICTU) outlined what issues a new Social Contract should address and how a new social dialogue could support it's implementation at our Social Policy Conference 2020.  Below is an extract from her paper.

Covid-19 has caused us to think about many things that previously we may never really have considered: the importance of good public services; the need for a social security system that provides real security in the face of sickness and unemployment; and about concepts such as inter-dependence and solidarity.  It has led us to reassess what we mean by ‘essentially work’; who really are the ‘essential workers’; and is it right that many of them are treated the way they are.And it has fundamentally changed the relationship between business and the state.

There is no doubt that a New Social Contract is needed.

The New Social Contract that Congress would like to achieve is set out in our ‘No Going Back’ policy document published in June.

For us, its principal components would include:

  • An incomes-related social security system, that resolves in the first instance the issues around sick pay and pensions
  • A universal, single-tier health system
  • An investment programme in public housing that ensures that everyone who needs a home has one, by right
  • A system of early years’ care and education that provides high-quality, affordable services
  • A Just Transition towards a sustainable green economy

And a new relationship between workers, employers and the state that remedies the scourges of low pay and precarious work practices, and that guarantees a living wage and decent work for every worker.

We believe it is possible to achieve such a contract over the coming years.

And we believe that social dialogue is central to agreeing such a contract.

In our view, agreeing a New Social Contract must involve all those who have a stake in the outcomes of economic and social policies. And the organisations that represent them must have the opportunity to shape those policies.

In our view, the National Economic and Social Council provides an excellent forum for developing in-depth policies on these matters. Its role could and should be enhanced in order to strengthen engagement with and between all sectors of society and to create new models of engagement. 

In our No Going Back document in June, we said that a deeper engagement with unions has to be part of a broader, more inclusive dialogue and engagement with civil society, as well as more participatory decision-making and democratic reform at all levels.

A New Social Contract has to be a democratic social contract in the sense of having broad support. We believe that such a contract is capable of addressing the many challenging facing Irish society and the Irish economy. We in the Irish trade union movement are willing to play our part in agreeing such a contract.

The full paper is available to download here.