Saturday 21 April 2018

Union threatens boycott of Labour Court if Leo Varadkar restricts right to strike

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

Anne-Marie Walsh and Cormac McQuinn

A union has threatened to boycott the state's chief industrial relations troubleshooting body if aspiring Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar restricts the right to strike.

UNITE Regional Coordinating Officer Richie Browne warned that members would refuse to attend the Labour Court to resolve disputes if the proposal got the go ahead.

Mr Varadkar wants to make the court's recommendations binding on workers including air traffic controllers so they cannot reject them and take industrial action.

Mr Browne condemned Mr Varadkar's plan as an anti-worker "effort to appeal to his grassroots" at a union conference in Belfast today.

 "In an effort to appeal to his grassroots, the likely next leader of Fine Gael and likely next Taoiseach came out yesterday threatening to ban or make illegal certain public service workers from taking strike action following a Labour Court recommendation," he said.

 He said if the court's recommendations were to become binding on unions as Mr Varadkar proposed, the union would have a simple response to that.

 "We won't be attending the Labour Court in those circumstances," said Mr Browne. "We won't participate in any process which will tie our members' hands or take away from them the right to engage in or take industrial action."

 He said Mr Varadkar's proposals are not only anti-worker but anti-democratic and likely to be counter-productive.

 Delegates passed a motion calling on the next Taoiseach to send a message of good faith to public sector workers by immediately repealing the emergency legislation that cut their pay.

 Fianna Fáil public expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary said a ban on strikes is "not something as a party we would support".

 Mr Calleary said: "We have a very, very sophisticated industrial relations system based around the Labour Court, based around the voluntary system. It has served the country very well."

 He claimed: "The proposals are very flimsy...  The detail that I’ve read within the proposals doesn’t give any detail on how he intends to classify emergency workers, how he intends to classify essential services. He says it’s a matter for the Oireachtas."

 He said that the timing of Mr Varadkar's proposals being announced is "unhelpful" amid the start of the public pay talks.

 A spokesman for Mr Varadkar responded to Mr Calleary's remarks.

“If Dara Calleary takes the time to read the full Taking Ireland Forward document he’ll find that the proposal is set out in very straightforward terms.

 "However we welcome the fact that Deputy Calleary is engaging in the debate which indicates that there will be some positive discussions in the days ahead,” the spokesman said.

 Meanwhile, the issue of outsourcing was centre stage at public sector pay talks today. The government wants to remove safeguards included in a previous deal for unions that stop it considering labour costs when employing contractors.

 The talks will focus on the contentious issue of public sector pensions and extra unpaid hours being worked under a previous deal tomorrow.

Online Editors

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