SIPTU delegates attending the union’s Biennial Delegate Conference in Cork, have heard that the maintenance of the so-called Brexit ‘backstop’ following the UK leaving the EU was vital for workers North and South. In his address to delegates, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, Gerry McCormack, said: “Workers in Ireland are contributing to productivity and performance gains across the Irish economy and they should be rewarded accordingly, without the shadow of Brexit hanging over them. “One of the main sticking points is the so-called ‘backstop’ designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. This must not be sacrificed to ease the passage of Brexit as this would be detrimental to workers, North and South. “Maintaining the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ is vital to ensure that borderless trade continues on the island and between Ireland and the UK in order to avoid the inevitable tariffs that would otherwise be imposed, and which would threaten the jobs of workers and the livelihoods of those working and living along the border. It is also essential in order to protect the Good Friday Agreement and prevent a return to conflict.” Responding to reports that the British government is preparing Brexit “sweeteners” and its attempts to blame the Irish state for Brexit, McCormack said that the people of Ireland will not be bought off or bullied by Boris Johnson.In his address, McCormack also dealt with the success of the SIPTU local bargaining strategy and warned that SIPTU will resist any attempts by the Government to make workers’ pay for social infrastructure twice. He said: “SIPTU will not get involved in any national pay agreements that undermine the existing structures we have, as suggested by IBEC. Why should workers take moderate pay increases through a centralised bargaining system and pay for social infrastructure? Workers already pay for investment in social infrastructure through taxation and the Government needs to get on with implementing a plan for real investment in housing, education and health.” He added: “SIPTU continues to negotiate agreements with employers at local level throughout the private sector. These agreements have not only provided workers with much deserved pay increases but also provide for the incorporation of local issues and no cost increasing claims during the lifetime of the agreement. However, while this pay strategy has been successful it still lacks the comprehensive reach that social dialogue at national level would bring. Local bargaining between employers and unions requires a national framework to deal with issues that cannot be dealt with through local bargaining processes. “These issues would include Industrial Relations legislation, workplace pensions and workplace innovation or cases of serious disputes needing immediate assistance where the State‘s industrial relations machinery has failed to resolve issues.”