Settlement allows soldiers join trade union body ahead of pay talks

Agreement includes undertakings not to engage in or support industrial action

Rank and file soldiers will for the first time have a voice at upcoming national pay talks after a settlement announced in the High Court allowing representative body PDForra to have temporary associate membership of the union umbrella body, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu).

The settlement agreement announced in court on Tuesday provides that the Ictu temporary associate membership is solely for forthcoming pay negotiations up to June 30th, 2024, or until relevant amending legislation is passed.

PDForra, which represents around 6,500 soldiers and other members of the Defence Forces, has undertaken not to request its members to go on strike or engage in any form of trade dispute or industrial action.

It also will not support directly or indirectly strike action or any industrial action by other organisations, trade unions or individuals. It has given a commitment that it shall not refuse to follow a lawful order to pass a picket line.

It has given a commitment that there will not be any engagement in public agitation, protests, lobbying or media commentary, including all forms of social media, against Government policy.

The settlement has arisen in a case brought by a Wexford soldier and PDForra against the Minister for Defence, Ireland, and the Attorney General .

Noting the settlement of the proceedings and the undertakings by PDforra, Mr Justice Conor Dignam said it was clear a very significant amount of work has been done to reach this point of agreement.

He made an order striking out the proceedings with consent from both parties.

In the proceedings the soldier and PDForra had sought various declarations under the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 over the refusal to provide consent to for the soldier to be associated with Ictu.

It also sought a declaration that Section 8 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990 considered individually or in conjunction with the restrictions imposed on soldiers under the Defence Amendment Act 1990, which prohibits soldiers from joining a trade union, was repugnant to the Constitution.

It was claimed that as a result of restrictions in the legislation the soldier had been unable to join any national umbrella group advocating for employee rights and that he and the representative body had been denied the right to effectively collectively bargain for better terms and conditions of employment.

As a result they also claimed they were denied access to the Labour Court and the Workplace Relations Commission and the ordinary mechanisms of dispute resolution available to other citizens through their workers associations and trade unions.

PDForra further claimed it remained excluded from all central pay negotiations in the State, all effective industrial machinery in the State and all of the protections afforded to worker under the Industrial Relations Act 1990.