FG derailing collective bargaining rights, claims Ictu chief

Congress vice-president says part of Coalition completely embedded with employers

Addressing the Ictu biennial delegate conference in Belfast, vice-president Patricia King said the Government was the only body which could deliver change, but that one part of it was completely embedded with the employer side. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Addressing the Ictu biennial delegate conference in Belfast, vice-president Patricia King said the Government was the only body which could deliver change, but that one part of it was completely embedded with the employer side. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Wed, Jul 3, 2013, 17:52

The Fine Gael side of the Government is working hand-in-glove with business interests to ensure new rights on collective bargaining for workers are never implemented, the vice-president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has indicated.

Address the Ictu biennial delegate conference in Belfast, Patricia King said the Government was the only body which could deliver changes in this area, but that one part of it was completely embedded with the employer side.

She said there were only five members of the Government who had any chance of implementing collective bargaining reforms to provide trade unions with greater scope to represent workers.

Ms King said ideally everyone who was on the left of centre should be united in their efforts to achieve a long-overdue entitlement for workers.

However, she said “some on the far left have moved so far to the left that they have met up with the far right in their condemnation of this movement”.

Ms King said the Constitution of Ireland recognised the rights of citizens to form a trade union, but it did not oblige any employer to negotiate or engage with a union.

“In fact Irish law actively protects the rights of an employer not to recognise a trade union and to run its business on a non-union basis. This is commonly referred to as the ‘voluntarist system’”.

Statutory recognition

Ms King said the trade union movement believed legislation should be enacted to provide for statutory recognition for the right to organise and collectively bargain. She said workers who wanted to be represented by a union should have this right recognised by the employer.

“Excepted bodies, where they exist, should have the same governance rules as trade unions. Employer dominance should be outlawed.

“On victimisation, we believe the current protections are wholly inadequate. A protective order should be available where the worker would remain in employment until a case was determined. Interference, inducement and penalisation should be outlawed.”

She said the programme for government said there would a review of legislation in this area to ensure Ireland was compliant with recent European court judgements.

However, she said Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton continued to say he wanted to develop the existing voluntarist system.

General secretary of the TEEU Eamon Devoy told the conference if the Government did not deliver on collective bargaining rights by the end of the year “we are going to have to come together fairly soon afterwards to decide what we are going to do about it”.

General secretary of Ictu David Begg said the “systematic dismantling of workplace rights was “one of the most serious problems facing the trade union movement”.

He said the picture was one of a tapestry of rights and protections built up over many years being stripped away in the context of pressure to devalue and to drive down wages.