Irish soldiers representative body win right to affiliate with Irish Congress of Trade Unions
Soldiers have won the right to affiliate to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and negotiate their own pay and conditions.
This follows a four-year battle at EU level between the military representative association for enlisted members of the Defence Forces, Pdforra 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.
Pdforra president Mark Keane said this afternoon the findings vindicated the numerous requests submitted by his association to various ministers for defence 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 were supported by the European Organisation of Military Associations.
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 military associations were up in arms last year after they discovered that the Department of Defence, which was meant to be representing them at the national pay talks, had allowed to be excluded from side deals negotiated with other groups of workers.
The military accused department officials of reneging on an obligation to look after the interests of troops and officers, whose associations could not participate directly at the negotiating table because they did not have trade union status.
The European Social Rights Committe found, however, that the right to strike was incompatible with military service although it noted that the right had been granted to the Austrian and Swedish armed forces.
The Department of Defence welcomed the finding that the ban on the right to strike was not a violation of the European social charter and said the affiliation of military representative associations to Congress would be considered under a current review of the existing conciliation and arbitration scheme.
The review was ordered by minister with responsibility for defence, Paul Kehoe after allegations that it was no longer fit for purpose.