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Plan to ban strikes in 'essential services' sparks unions' anger


The NBRU’s Dermot O’Leary. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The NBRU’s Dermot O’Leary. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The NBRU’s Dermot O’Leary. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Fine Gael leadership candidate Leo Varadkar has unveiled plans to ban strikes by workers in essential services that may include air traffic controllers, bus and rail drivers.

In what would likely be a highly popular move, the aspiring taoiseach revealed he wants to restrict the right to strike. He will legislate to prevent workers providing crucial services from disrupting them easily.

Mr Varadkar pledged to make Labour Court recommendations binding on both sides in disputes in his new 'Taking Ireland Forward' policy document - a move that has been mooted by ministers in the past.

This follows a number of highly disruptive disputes, including rows at Luas and Dublin Bus where unions went on strike after rejecting court proposals. However, members of the Oireachtas would determine which services would be affected, according to Mr Varadkar's manifesto.

And he would need the support of Fianna Fáil, which may not be prepared to risk losing its public service supporters.

Mr Varadkar has stoked tensions with unions over his strike proposal. After being pressed on what sort of workers the ban would apply to, he said it would apply in cases of "life or death".

He cited air traffic control staff and emergency personnel as examples. "This is not proposing to ban strikes. What this proposal is, is that when an issue goes to the Labour Court, when both sides agree that it should go to the Labour Court and when there is a determination of the Labour Court, if it is an essential service or a security service, as defined by the Oireachtas, that decision should be binding."

National Bus and Railworkers Union general secretary Dermot O'Leary described the plan as "populist bluster".

Nursing union chief Liam Doran said it would "revolutionise" the voluntary industrial relations system.

Fine Gael parliamentary party endorsements for leader

The Fine Gael parliamentary party makes up 65pc of the total electorate.

That makes each of the 73 members' votes worth 0.9pc of the total ballot.

Of the remaining electorate, 230 party councillors account for 10pc, while the remaining 25pc is rank and file members.

Leo Varadkar
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* Outgoing leader Enda Kenny and party chairman Martin Heydon will not make an endorsement

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