Eamon Devoy on Collective Bargaining

3 Jul 2013

Of all the motions before conference this motion on Collective Bargaining is by far the most important one.
In considering this motion we need to consider what we had and have recently lost, while considering what our demands on collective bargaining should be for the future.
THE LOSS OF WHAT LITTLE WE HADFollowing the loss of Registered Employment Agreements (REA's), brought about by the Supreme Court striking down PART III of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 on the 9th May last, some observers would say that the only remaining relationship between employers and workers is one of Master & Servant where the relationship is clearly unequal with the employer holding all the cards.
This decision followed the striking down of all Employment Regulation Orders (ERO's) by the 2011 High Court in the Grace Fried Chicken case.
This in turn follows the striking down of many aspects of the 2001/2004 Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act in 2007 in the successful Supreme Court appeal against the Labour Court decision in the Ryanair Judgement.
On the 1st August last, a new legal framework for REAs and EROs was put in place by way of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012. This has also been lost as part of the recent Supreme Court decision.
The loss  this suite of pro-employee legislation, leave workers in Ireland extremely vulnerable. Workers can now be subject to the whims of employers whose priority is to maximise profits and the return to their shareholders.  The usual explanation given for this is "improved competitiveness" which is a euphemism for pay reductions that can only lead to a race to the bottom.

Fine Gael and Labour are on he record as saying, that as part of the Programme for Government, they will reform the current law on employees’ right to engage in collective bargaining, so as to ensure compliance by the State with recent judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.

Last Friday, IBEC's director of industrial relations Brendan McGinty said:

- 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. 
- Irish labour law provided 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”.
In other words, no change!


We need to give both the Government and Employers this message:
We demand and will campaign vigorously to ensure that:
- Collective Bargaining Rights are implemented this year, in keeping with ILO Conventions, and the European Court of Human Rights, and
- Legislation is introduced that restores REA's and the JLCs are re-established and their  ERO's operational.
One hundred years on from the extraordinary sacrifices made by the workers of Dublin, and the many subsequent attempts by this movement to secure Collective Bargaining rights these demands must be met and will be pursued by this Congress using all means at our disposal.
On behalf of the Executive Council I commend this motion to conference.