Fine Gael against new rights for workers, says union chief

Ictu’s Patricia King says senior Government partner ‘embedded’ with employers against collective bargaining rights

Patricia King: “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.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Patricia King: “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.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Thu, Jul 4, 2013, 10:48



The Fine Gael side of the Government is working hand-in- glove with business interests to ensure that new rights on collective bargaining for workers are not implemented, the vice-president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has indicated.

Addressing the Ictu biennial delegate conference in Belfast, Patricia King said the Government was the only body that could deliver changes in this area but 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, “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”.

Constitution
Ms King said the Irish Constitution 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’ ”.

Ms King said the trade union movement believed that legislation should be enacted to provide for statutory recognition for the right to organise and collectively bargain.

Governance rules
She said workers who wanted to be represented by a union should have this right recognised by the employer. Excepted bodies, she said, should have the same governance rules as trade unions. Employer dominance should be outlawed.

She said the programme for government said there would be a review of legislation in this area to ensure Ireland was compliant with recent European court judgments. However, she said Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton continued to say that he wanted to develop the existing voluntarist system.

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