Industrial law change needed, says union Collective bargaining must be strengthened, says Impact

Thu, May 17, 2012, 01:00

THE PRESIDENT of the country’s largest public service trade union has called on the Government to honour its commitment to revise legislation on collective bargaining in advance of the centenary next year of the 1913 Dublin lockout

Addressing the biennial delegate conference of the trade union Impact last night in Killarney, its president Kevin O’Malley said the union would urge Taoiseach Enda Kenny when he attended the event tomorrow to fix the prevailing “shameful and embarrassing legislative shortcomings”.

He said a major priority for Impact over the coming months would be to hold the Coalition to account on its promise in its programme for government to update collective bargaining rights.

He said current arrangements were seriously out of line with most developed nations, international standards and European legal judgments.

“It is a national embarrassment to have shortcomings in Irish collective bargaining rights criticised at the United Nations Human Rights Council, as they were last October.

“But, as a result, Ireland’s Ambassador has since confirmed to the UN that a commitment on collective bargaining rights in the programme for government will be honoured and Irish law made consistent with recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.”

Mr O’Malley said this statement was welcome but now the Government needed “to get on with it and give it the priority it demands”.

“Next year marks the centenary of the 1913 Dublin lockout. The central issue in that bitter dispute was the worker’s right to be represented by unions, including through collective bargaining.

“It is unthinkable that we would mark the centenary of that dispute, which helped change the course of Irish history, before the Government honours its commitment and brings Irish rights in line with international standards and rulings.”

Mr O’Malley also told the conference that Impact had succeeded in preventing attempts to abuse the terms of the Croke Park agreement.

“Management is management, and sometimes they try to abuse the agreement. We have stopped that. Not just on high-profile issues – like attempts to cut leave across the board, which was never agreed in Croke Park – but also . . . the inevitable attempts of local managements to impose arbitrary measures, which pose as reform but deliver none.”

Mr O’Malley also said a top priority would be the rebuilding of the union “after the awful events and disappointments of 2009 and 2010” – when the Government introduced the pension levy on public service staff and then a further pay cut.

He said some union branches had experienced decline but others had held their own or continued to grow.

He said the reduction in membership was foreseen and indeed was inevitable given the job losses across the public, private and community sectors.

“That is why the union has taken steps to manage expenditure while maintaining – and in some respects expanding – our services to members.”


BARGAINING: WHAT UNIONS WANT

Unions are seeking new legislation that would:

Give workers a legal right to join a union and to have the union effectively represent them

Outlaw victimisation or adverse treatment for joining a union

Provide safeguard against inducements designed to stop workers joining or being represented by a union

Set out legal definitions and obligations over collective bargaining practices and facilities