Union rights legislation review on hold


MOVES BY the Government to review legislation governing trade union representation rights and to ban victimisation against those joining trade unions appear to have been put on hold.

The measures were key provisions of the social partnership deal agreed between the Government, employers and trade unions in September 2008.

However the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation said yesterday that work was not under way on these commitments and that its priority was focused on three separate pieces of legislation in the employment area which were being finalised.

It said that a significant amount of work had been carried out on these pieces of legislation.

The department also said a discussion forum on these commitments was effectively suspended when the social partnership process broke down at the end of last year. However, it said the commitments contained in the social partnership deal had not been forgotten.

In an answer to a written parliamentary question tabled by Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan on Wednesday, Minister of State for Labour Affairs Dara Calleary said that the Towards 2016 Review and Transitional Agreement 2008–2009 provided for the establishment of a review process to consider the legal and other steps necessary to enable the employee representation mechanisms that had been established under previous agreements – and in legislation – to operate as they had been intended to.

He said the agreement also committed the Government to bringing forward legislative proposals to prohibit the victimisation of trade union members and to prohibit the incentivisation of people not to be members of a trade union.

The issue of recognition for collective bargaining purposes has become hugely important for trade unions in recent times following a Supreme Court ruling in 2007 in a case involving Ryanair.

The unions believe that this ruling emasculated compromise legislation drawn up in 2001 and 2004, which gave them limited rights to represent workers in non-unionised companies.

However, in a submission to the review last year, employers’ group Ibec warned that any move by the Government towards a system of mandatory trade union recognition would be unconstitutional and would cost jobs.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions said yesterday it had written to the Government seeking clarification on the commitments, which it said it viewed as being of crucial importance.