Improving access to collective bargaining

Time for legislation

Sir, – It was insightful to hear the call by Esther Lynch general secretary of the European Trade Union Congress and Joe Cunningham of Siptu for the right of workers to bargain with their employers collectively (“Improved access to collective bargaining will leave unions with work to do, Siptu conference told”, News, November 14th). Most private sector workers are denied the democratic right to collectively bargaining with their employers which is in breach of the International Labour Organisation Conventions No 87/98, the European Social Charter and European Human Rights Convention.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality stated “that the State should establish a legal right to collective bargaining to improve wages, working conditions and rights in all sectors”.

A study by the UCD behavioural research team shows that three-quarters of non-union workers in the 16 to 24 age cohort would join a union. In sharp contrast, a recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed three-quarters of companies that do not recognise a union do not want to engage with any part of a new system of collective bargaining brought in by Government.

International research show that trade union membership is at its highest when employers recognise workers democratic and legal right collective bargaining.


An Irish example of workers identifying with a trade union and engaging in collective bargaining is in our public sector. The State, as the largest employer, recognises the right of its workers to trade union membership and collective bargaining.

Worker employed in all grades and sectors of the State, numbering in excess of 300,000 are members of a trade union from senior civil servants to the most junior staff member. Union organisation is recognised for employees in the HSE, An Garda Síochána, Army, teachers, universities, local authorities, semi-State companies, and doctors and judges have their own associations to represent them.

It is evident from trade union data that there is no distinction between white-collar and blue-collar workers when it comes to trade union membership. They all recognise the right to representation is essential in negotiating on pay and conditions of employment.

The State has an obligation to vindicate workers’ right to trade union membership by given recognition to collective bargaining rights to private sector workers numbering more than over two million.

Failure by the State to oblige hostile private sector employers by law to recognise workers’ rights is to discriminate against most workers in the State, a substantial proportion of whom are on poverty wages.

Do the decent thing: legislate. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.