Umbrella trade union group Congress today accused influential employers’ body Ibec of scaremongering after it warned jobs would be lost if firms are forced to recognise unions.
Congress suggested Ibec was promoting an economy built on low wages, low pay and low standards by warning mandatory union recognition would turn away foreign companies thinking of investing here.
The row centred on a renewed dispute over whether the Lisbon Treaty forces European countries to reform laws on industrial relations and give workers automatic union rights.
Sally Anne Kinahan, Congress assistant general secretary, said Ibec’s claims were “extraordinary nonsense”.
“Ibec – which is a union representing employers – is engaged in reprehensible scaremongering,” she said.
“If you are trying to build an economy based on low wages, low pay and low standards then of course you see the right to union recognition as a threat.
“If Ibec’s scaremongering had any substance, then the economies of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden would be in crisis and they would have record levels of unemployment, given their unionisation rates of between 70 and 80%.
“Instead, they sit consistently in the top 10 of the world’s most competitive, dynamic economies.”
Ibec warned about mandatory union rights at its annual employment law conference in Dublin.
Director Brendan McGinty said: “Mandatory trade union recognition or a legal right to collective bargaining would not create a single job in this economy and would instead threaten many thousands of jobs by damaging our capacity to attract and retain inward investment.
“Irish employees are already well protected by a raft of employment legislation. Mandatory union recognition would only put off companies that are considering investing in the country and would act as a barrier to job creation.”
Ibec claimed speculation on the issue spun out of Article 28 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which refers to a right of collective bargaining and action.
Congress argued that the treaty brought the charter into Irish law and that political will was the only thing stopping reform of labour laws.
Ms Kinahan added: “There is a serious flaw in Irish labour legislation which allows people to join trade unions but not to be represented by them or have them negotiate collectively on your behalf. That situation does not exist anywhere else in Europe.”