Equality Introduction

Congress and Equality

The promotion of human rights, equality and diversity is a fundamental principle of trade unionism and part of our daily struggle for freedom, equality and justice for all. Congress believes in equal rights for all workers and is committed to combating all forms of discrimination and promoting equality within workplaces and our trade unions. It is widely recognised that the workplace is a strategic entry point to free society from discrimination and so Congress places great emphasis on supporting our affiliate trade unions in representing the interests of a very diverse membership.

The extent of equality and anti-discrimination legislation has improved over the years and led to the setting up of an Equality Authority and most recently, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).

Yet, despite being unlawful, discrimination occurs in the world of work every day and leads to isolation, abuse and victimisation. A quarterly National Household survey module on equality carried out in 2004 showed low levels of awareness of rights under equality legislation. This was further analysed in "The Experience of Discrimination in Ireland" which examined the subjective experience of discrimination across the adult population in Ireland. A repeat of the survey in the last quarter of 2010 again examined the reported experience of discrimination of people of the age of 18 years and over. It finds that 12% of people felt they had experienced discrimination in the previous two years. This was the same rate of discrimination as in the last such survey carried out in 2004.

The survey found that in the fourth quarter of 2010:-

-12 % of those aged 18 years or over - some 400,000 people in the population - felt they had experienced discrimination in the 2 year period prior to the survey.
-6% of adults (18+) had experienced work related discrimination and 7% had experienced discrimination in accessing services ( some people had experienced both)
-The highest rates of discrimination were reported by people from non-White ethnic backgrounds (29%) unemployed people (22%) non-Irish nationals (20%) and people who where not Catholic (18%).
-Looking across the nine grounds of the equality legislation - race and age were the most widely reported grounds for discrimination - with Race/Skin Colour/Ethnic Group/Nationality cited by 22% of those experiencing discrimination and age cited by 19%.

The results of the 2014 Survey were published by the CSO in 2015.  The IHREC have not (yet) produced a detailed analysis of the 2014 survey as before. 

Cases won by affiliated unions at the Workplace Relations Commission (Previously the Equality Tribunal) show that unions are working to meet the challenges of representing a diverse workforce.

See Congress Guide to Employment Equality Act (Note the Act has been amended since then with most recent version here. We also have a guide to taking a case which we are hoping to revise soon to reflect the new institutional arrangements in this regard.

European Case Law Equality Supplement

Unfortunately, despite a strong business case for equality, the recession saw an attack on our equality infrastructure and January 2009 saw the resignation of both Congress reps (David Joyce and Louise O Donnel)l from the board of the equality authority. This followed the resignation of Niall Crowley as chief executive of the organisation in protest at the disproportionate budget cutbacks in October 2008. Congress has since reappointed 2 people to the board in order to ensure a trade union perspective in the Authority's business and to continue to make the case that equality has a strong contribution to make in our national recovery.

Congress and IBEC do not have automatic places on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.  We are working to have an advisory committee establish (with reps from both) to advise the IHREC on Human Rights and Equality in employment matters.  

ITUC and ETUC and Equality

The International Trade Union Confederation is also very active in the area of Equality

The European Trade Union Confederation is also very active in the area of equality

Congress is a member of the Equality and Rights Alliance ERA Logo

Congress has a number of equality related committees including:

The Strategic Implementation Committee for Congress Equality Initiatives;
The Congress Womens Committees (NI & ROI); You can read the current action plan of our Women's Committee (ROI) here
The Congress Disability Committees (NI & ROI).
The Congress youth committees (NI & ROI)
The Congress Retired Workers Committee
Congress Race and ethnic Minority Committee (NIC)
Congress LGBT Committee (NI)


For more information or for feedback on the equality section of our website, contact David Joyce