New collective bargaining rights could cost jobs and investment, IBEC says

Unions expected to step up lobbying before conclusion of Government review

Any move to introduce new collective bargaining rights would cost jobs and significantly reduce the attractiveness of Ireland as a location for investment, the employer's group Ibec has said.

Ibec said Irish law fully complied with international legal norms and that no change was necessary on foot of recent judgments by the European Court of Human Rights.

Trade unions are expected to step up lobbying on the introduction of new collective bargaining rights in the weeks ahead in the run-up to the conclusion of a review currently being undertaken by the Government.

Union leaders are hoping Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore will give some indication of the Government's plans in this area when he addresses the biennial conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) in Belfast next week.


In the programme for government Fine Gael and Labour said they would reform the current law on employees' right to engage in collective bargaining to ensure compliance with recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

The current generally accepted legal position in Ireland is that while workers have a right to join a trade union, employers do not have to negotiate with trade unions and that any engagement is voluntary.

Ibec director of industrial relations Brendan McGinty said Irish labour law provided a robust set of legal rights and protections to employees but allowed for flexibility at a company level in how relations with workers are managed and disputes resolved.

He said it was imperative that the “foundation of our collective bargaining arrangements must remain voluntary”.

Mr McGinty said any move to introduce new collective bargaining rights would “damage those sectors of the economy which curently chose to deal directly with their staff and would cost Ireland the high-wage jobs that many firms in those sectors provide”.

He said Ibec rejected calls by Ictu "for the assistance of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in their bid to convince the Irish Government to give legal effects to a right of workers to collectively bargain with employers through a trade union". He said Ireland already complied with all relevant ILO conventions and its intervention was unnecessary.

Minister for Enterprise and Jobs Richard Bruton said recently the review was still under way and he hoped " to report to Government in the autumn on the outcome of that process and what proposals to improve the voluntarist system of industrial relations might be brought forward in 2013".

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent