As the local political parties gather today for discussions to try to restore the NI Executive and Assembly, Trade NI, an alliance of three of the largest sectors of industry, manufacturing, hospitality and retail, which represents the majority of businesses in Northern Ireland, has joined the call from Trade Unions to introduce a Forum for Social Dialogue to ensure space is created to allow parties to build confidence and work through issues.
In a Joint Statement, Trade NI (made up of Retail NI, Hospitality Ulster and Manufacturing NI) said:
“Whilst it is for politicians and government to draft and agree a Programme for Government, we believe there is an important role for civic society, through Social Dialogue, to work through, share, agree and get buy-in from the social partners on policy areas and help build stable government.”
“For us, the areas which can be usefully supported are on the evolving world of work and quality jobs; an industrial strategy, productivity, skills and training; ensuring the NI economy provides opportunities for those not currently in the workforce; and seeking post Brexit opportunities.”
“Social Dialogue is successfully used throughout the world, including Scotland and Wales, to discuss, negotiate and agree on issues that can improve the regional economy and society becoming a key component of a fully functioning democracy and economy. It can help bind civic society together and to build cross community consensus and assist in taking tension out of issues.”
“We think the Brexit experience in NI should be seen as a game changer. We can no longer have a situation whereby unions, employers’ groups and others are expected to raise their voice about violence, Brexit etc. but then be ignored on other occasions.”
“A functioning government should see the benefits of creating formal representative structures whereby key and large organisations in NI can articulate their concerns and their interests for the people they represent, but most importantly consider solutions to the problems that exist.”
“We are approaching 3 years since we last had a functioning Executive and are facing some fundamental changes to our trading relationships with the UK and the world. Now it is critical for politics to bring civic society in to support their work and collectively create the conditions which will allow any new Executive to be effective.”