Military wins right to union affiliation after battle
A military association has warned the Government it will take legal action if it does not implement an EU ruling to allow troops to be affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and negotiate their own pay and conditions.
The military won the right after a four-year battle at European level between the association representing soldiers, sailors and air crew in the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence.
The powerful European Social Rights Committee has now ruled that while EU governments had powers to impose restrictions on the troops' right to organise, this did not mean they could operate a blanket ban on professional associations like trade unions to affiliate to national confederations.
Mark Keane, president of representative body Pdforra, said yesterday that the ruling was an "enormous success" for their lengthy campaign and the findings vindicated the requests submitted by his association to various defence ministers seeking affiliation to Congress.
He said the committee findings meant the restrictions on their right to organise must not impair that right.
"Suppression for the sake of suppression is not a legitimate aim," he said.
Mr Keane added: "Make no mistake about it, the Government fought us every step of the way in respect of this complaint."
Pdforra was supported by the European Organisation of Military Associations (Euromil). It is likely that the Defence Acts will have to be changed to accommodate the ruling after it has been formally approved in Europe.
The move comes after a similar ruling in favour of the Garda associations four years ago.
The Department of Defence welcomed another finding that the ban on the right to strike was not a violation of the European social charter and said the affiliation of Pdforra to Congress would be considered under a current review of the existing conciliation and arbitration scheme.
The review was ordered by Defence Minister Paul Kehoe after allegations that it was no longer fit for purpose.
Pdforra general secretary Ger Guinan said his association had not expected to be granted the right to strike and its intention was to examine the parameters of the restrictions. He said the complaint to the EU had not cost any money as it had been prepared in-house with the assistance of Euromil.