Workers given new protections in fight for better conditions
WORKERS will get new protection from employers in disputes over pay cuts, pensions and other conditions under new measures approved by the Cabinet.
The new legislation is designed to see companies that refuse to recognise trade unions being hauled in front of the Labour Court for the first time.
The Coalition yesterday signed off on the new collective bargaining laws which fall short of mandatory union recognition. Unions denied representation in the workplace can take a case to the Labour Court on behalf of workers.
They must make the case that the employer in question is not delivering a fair deal on pay and conditions.
The Labour Court will be entitled to make a legally binding decision which may improve the employment terms of union members. The ruling can be enforced in the circuit court.
A new collective bargaining agreement was pushed strongly by Labour as part of the Programme for Government.
While the measures will not enforce mandatory union recognition, several members of the Labour Parliamentary party have welcomed the new rules.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said that the measures provide a new layer of protection for workers whose employers do not recognise unions. He said: "It is important to make provision that where employers choose not to have collective bargaining that workers not getting fair conditions can have a process where they can vindicate those rights."
The measures are also aimed at avoiding the 'victimisation of workers' and provide for a scenario whereby the secretary of the union will initially provide a declaration that does not identity members by names.
But workers may be asked to give oral evidence later.
Mr Bruton said that the new measures effectively restore the 2001 and 2004 Industrial Relations Acts which were struck down by the Supreme Court in a case brought by Ryanair.
The airline opposed attempts by the pilots' branch of the IMPACT trade union to assure better conditions for members.
Trade unions welcomed the announcement.
General secretary of ICTU, David Begg, paid tribute to Labour leader Eamon Gilmore for delivering on a commitment to the legislation in the government programme.
He said that, once enacted, the legislation, which is mandatory collective bargaining, would "constitute a substantial advance for trade union rights in Ireland".
Mr Begg said the proposed legislation appeared to "deal with all the key issues".
The proposals, to amend the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001, will fulfil a Programme For Government commitment to bring Irish law in line with recent European Court of Justice rulings.
IMPACT said the proposals would strengthen the ability of trade unions to protect workers.
"This long-overdue legislation will allow trade unions to engage in collective bargaining and secure benefits for workers in companies where employers refuse to pay the going rate," said general secretary of IMPACT, Shay Cody.
But employer group IBEC said that the new measure was not mandatory collective bargaining, which it claimed would have cost jobs and repel investors.
"Ireland's voluntarist approach is fundamental to our ability to attract foreign investment and to create and sustain employment," said Ibec's head of industrial relations Maeve McElwee.
"Any move to undermine this approach would have cost jobs. Government has listened to the concerns of business and made the right decision."