Ibec and Ictu set to clash at Oireachtas committee meeting

Employers’ group and unions at loggerheads over minimum wage and other issues

Ibec and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions are set to clash again on the minimum wage when representatives of the two organisations appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment on Wednesday.

Ictu general secretary Owen Reidy will tell the committee the Government needs to bring detailed legislation to implement the EU’s minimum wage directive and involve itself in ensuring the proportion of workers represented in collective bargaining grows to 80 per cent.

The employers’ group’s executive director for employer relations, Maeve McElwee, however, will tell politicians that legislation is not required and while the directive requires the Government to promote wider coverage where it is below 80 per cent, there is no obligation to achieve this figure.

The two sides are also likely to be questioned about the letter sent by Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy to the Taoiseach in recent days seeking a pause to a range of cost-increasing measures, including anticipated increases to the national minimum wage, pending an assessment of their impact. Ictu described the move as “wrong and shameful”.


In his opening statement, Mr Reidy says the directive is intended to improve living standards and working conditions with collective bargaining central to achieving that.

“The State and all its agencies need to become advocates and enablers of collective bargaining. An all-of government approach is needed, with a clear and consistent policy focus,” he will say.

The union umbrella body says legislation will be required to promote collective bargaining and “provide a roadmap for unions to seek to engage with an employer where it is not the traditional practice of the employer to engage”.

Ibec, in contrast, will contend that “little, if any” legislative change is required for the transposition of the directive which is due to be completed by November of this year.

The organisation will tell the committee the existing framework of industrial relations legislation is entirely adequate to facilitate the requirements of the directive although both sides might benefit from additional training if funding was to be provided.

“While it is clear that Ireland will be obliged to provide for a framework and establish an action plan to promote collective bargaining… it is Ibec’s view that it would be more appropriate, and likely more effective, for such framework and action plan to be established by way of agreement with the social partners or between the social partners themselves,” the committee’s members will be told.

Unions have set considerable store by the potential of the directive in conjunction with a 2021 recommendation from the Labour Employer Economic Forum, on which Government, employers and unions are all represented, that ways of encouraging “good faith” negotiations be explored, to aid their ability to gain wider recognition in private sector workplaces.

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Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times