'Jobs to be lost' under new plans for union recognition
Published 11/04/2011 | 05:00
MULTINATIONAL companies and some of the country's largest indigenous employers will be forced to recognise unions under planned legislation.
But employers' group IBEC claimed last night that thousands of jobs would be lost if the Government pushed through with the laws to make engaging with unions compulsory.
Major multinational employers, such as Intel, prefer to deal directly with employees on staffing issues through employee representative associations, made up of employees rather than union officials.
More than 140,000 workers are employed in foreign companies operating here and a further 100,000 workers are employed in jobs supporting these firms.
An internal IBEC document, seen by the Irish Independent, has been drawn up in opposition to a measure in the new Programme for Government that could transform workplace negotiation.
In the message, the employer's group warns that a "rush towards the radical and dangerous direction" of collective bargaining with unions would turn foreign investors away and cost jobs.
In its Programme for Government, the Fine Gael/Labour coalition says it will "reform the current law on employees' rights to engage in collective bargaining".
This was to "ensure compliance by the State with recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights", it said.
The move comes after Labour promised legislation to strengthen workers' collective bargaining rights in its election manifesto to protect them from "unscrupulous employers".
The Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union said if these measures were secured, it would be the first time in the history of the State that workers would be entitled, as a right, to be represented by a trade union.
Last night, IBEC director Brendan McGinty said employers feared the strengthening of collective bargaining rights would be the "back door" for statutory recognition for unions.
IBEC argued the current "voluntarist system" that allowed employers to decide whether they wanted to engage with unions had been a key factor in attracting foreign employers.
The IBEC document notes that "a large proportion of high-wage, hi-tech jobs in the Irish economy are provided by multinational companies who do not deal with trade unions".
The Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation said the proposed reform would require "consultation with stakeholders and a review of the experience of the operation of the existing legislative framework".