ICTU President, Kevin Callinan, called for a focus on securing collective bargaining rights for workers in Ireland and protecting living standards in the face of a record high inflation rate, at the SIPTU Biennial Delegate Conference in Sligo, today (Wednesday, 30th March). He called for the development of a political strategy to strengthen collective bargaining rights. “That strategy needs to include a public awareness campaign aimed at explaining what collective bargaining means in simple terms and how it has an important role in the achievement of greater equality and in securing democracy – not just in the workplace but in broader society too”, Callinan said. The ICTU President also said that the standard of living of workers and their families must be protected. He said: “We cannot ignore the impact of inflation on living standards. It hits the poorest first and hardest. And we must utterly reject the narrative developing in some quarters that compensatory pay increases will fuel inflation. Let’s be clear: workers are not the cause of inflation, they are its victims. But we also know that, against today’s uncertain background, the protection of employment must remain as big a priority for our movement as confronting the cost of living. “Ireland’s lack of this social wage is felt most keenly when prices are on the rise. The trade union movement has been quick to respond to the soaring cost of living and its impact on our families’ living standards. In the face of high and persistent inflation, ICTU’s Private Sector Committee has twice outlined its advice on private sector pay aspirations since the end of 2021. And I think that they will have to do so again. And, earlier this month, the Congress Public Services Committee invoked the review clause of the Building Momentum agreement in response to the cost-of-living crisis.” He added: “We are operating in a fast-changing situation in this regard. None of us can predict the global economic reverberations of the war in Ukraine with certainty. What is certain is that we will all feel the impact – definitely in terms of further increases in the cost of essentials like food and fuel, and possibly in the form of a new and potentially deep recession.”