US influence on employee Bill denied

 

A claim that US multinationals significantly influenced the terms of a new employment rights Bill has been dismissed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Bill was published by the department late last month. It proposes to give effect to an EU directive obliging employers to consult their staff and provide them with information on issues affecting them.

The directive left considerable scope for flexibility, however, on how it is to be implemented by individual member states.

The Bill published last month was sharply criticised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which said the Government had opted for the "minimalist approach" advocated by employers. Ictu said it fell far short of what was required and would "do nothing to aid workplace consultation or representation".

It is to seek changes to the Bill, which assistant general secretary Peter Bunting described as "completely untenable" from a partnership perspective. Unions are unhappy, for example, that the Bill does not give employees an automatic right to be consulted or informed about the developments in their workplace.

Instead, negotiations to set up an information and consultation structure would have to be "triggered" by workers, in the form of a written request signed by 10 per cent of the workforce.

An article on the Bill in the current edition of Industrial Relations News claims it bears the "indelible stamp" of the views of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland. The chamber represents US multinationals in Ireland and is regarded as an influential lobbyist.

In a submission to the department while the Bill was in preparation, the chamber argued there was no need for "unduly heavy" legislation that did not enhance relations between employers and workers.

It specifically lobbied for the Bill to include an employee trigger mechanism rather than consultation and information as an automatic right.

The department ignored its request, however, that 25 per cent of employees be required to trigger implementation, and opted instead for the lower threshold of 10 per cent provided for in the Bill.

Industrial Relations News claimed it was clear from the chamber's submission that the "voice" of US multinationals had "left its mark" on the Bill as published. A spokeswoman for the department said, however, there had been "wide consultation" on the transposition of the directive.

A consultation paper was issued in July 2003 and "all views and observations were taken into account". The department declined to comment on Ictu's criticisms.