Last evening I spoke at some length on the need for prolonged industrial peace if we are to create the best atmosphere possible for the creation of meaningful and productive jobs on the scale that will be required to meet the great and exciting challenge that is posed by our young population. We have set out proposals for establishing this industrial peace and we invite the Government and the Labour Party to join with us in an all-party approach to this very serious national problem, a problem that has been with us for many years. We are convinced that industrial peace can be achieved if there is present the necessary industrial relations infrastructure.
This brings me to the question of the impact of the recent national understanding in so far as industrial peace is concerned and also in relation to the creation of jobs and to the maintenance of those jobs that exist. As the Minister for Finance pointed out yesterday, we continue to award ourselves pay increases that are more than double those which our main competitors on the Continent are awarding themselves. That sort of situation was all right in the past when we were linked with sterling and when sterling was devaluing against these other currencies. But since our entry to the EMS, since we are no longer protected by a devaluing sterling and since our púnt, whatever its relationship with sterling, is not devaluing against the European currencies, we are facing headlong into a huge crisis on the jobs front.
Despite these circumstances and disregarding apparently what we have learned in the past, we have agreed a new national understanding. Indeed, this understanding has been foisted on us by the Government. It is a threat to thousands of jobs already in existence. I find it very sad that many of the workers who have been awarded this pay increase will find themselves out of jobs because of it before its expiry date. In addition, the national understanding has the added drawback of the level of pay increases, damaging as it is and too high as it is in terms of jobs, being far too low to meet the increase in the cost of living. I have estimated an 8 per cent gap in this regard. In other words, workers will have to endure an 8 per cent gap in their standard of living.
Again I predict, though I hope I shall be proved wrong, that before the expiry of this new agreement this cut in living standards will in itself provoke not the much-needed industrial peace but further industrial relations anarchy and chaos. That would be precisely the wrong atmosphere to give us any hope of confronting in a meaningful way the challenge that is before us on the jobs front. The possiblity is that as a result of the national understanding we will have the worst of all possible worlds. However, the Government, and the Taoiseach personally, involved themselves in such a way as to ensure that there was reached agreement in terms of pay increases at such high percentages.
The Government made certain commitments under the national understanding. The first section deals with employment. Paragraph 7 talks about new measures required. It commits the Government to an increase in jobs of 7,000 between the end of 1979 and the end of 1980, which means that 31,000 new jobs would be created in that period and 24,000 jobs lost. This means a net increase of 7,000 jobs. It then points out that our workforce is increasing at a rate of between 5,000 and 10,000 per annum. Let us take a figure of 7,500. If the commitment of the Government in the national understanding is to be met it should mean that there are 7,000 more jobs today than there were this time last year. But, allowing for the fact that the workforce has increased by 7,500, it should mean that the unemployment figures for this week would be the same as the unemployment figure for the same week last year.
Is that the case? A release from the Central Statistics Office says that the total unemployed on 31 October, the last week for which figures have been published, was 110,921. For the same week in 1979 there were 82,892 people unemployed, a difference of over 28,000. The Government have reneged on their commitment of the national understanding on which the ink is hardly dry. The job commitment for 1979 is not only reneged on but it is out by 28,000
I believe the Government have conned the trade unions, the employers and the workforce at large. I believe they have damaged their credibility as far as the workforce are concerned in a way they will only realise when the next national understanding comes to be negotiated. The figure is 28,000 worse than the Government said it would be six weeks ago when they not only agreed to the national understanding but pushed the social partners into agreeing to it. Surely the Government could not have thought six weeks ago that the figure today would be 8,000 better than it is. They deliberately conned the social partners and the workforce. We must add to that the likely adverse effects on competitiveness of the increase. The unfortunate result of the national understanding is that by this time next year the Government will have brought themselves and us into new records as far as unemployment is concerned.
The Government have also reneged a second time on the national understanding when they said there would be a White Paper on Education by 14 November. That date has come and gone and there is no White Paper.