Collective bargaining legislation unveiled

Trade unions have welcomed draft legislation from the Government that will allow them to represent members at the Labour Court even where employers refuse to recognise them for collective bargaining purposes.

The Government has announced a billthat is designed “to provide significant strengthening of laws to protect and promote workers’ rights and the low paid, and [will provide] certainty for businesses and employers”.

The legislation will ensure that workers whose employers do not recognise collective bargaining, will be able to put forward claims around their pay, terms, and conditions with the help of their trade union. The claim will be adjudicated upon by the Labour Court based on comparisons with similar companies.

According to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation, the determination of the Labour Court may also be enforced by the Circuit Court if the employer refuses to engage.

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Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Patricia King said: “This is progressive legislation that is capable of addressing most of the deficits exposed by the 2007 Supreme Court and bringing union rights in Ireland into line with international norms.”

Trade unions said that 2007 ruling, in a case between Ryanair and Impact, rendered existing legislation on collective bargaining inoperable.

The department is also publishing legislation to once again provide for Registered Employment Agreements and Sectoral Employment Orders. That follows a judgment by the Supreme Court in 2013 which effectively made the registration of employment agreements invalid.

As well as allowing trade unions and employers to register agreements again, the new legislation will allow the sides to apply to the Labour Court for a review of pay/pensions/sick pay for workers in a particular sector and make recommendations to the minister for the making of an order in those areas. The orders will have legal effect.

Minister of state for business Ged Nash said: “The new legislation will bring a sense of certainty to both sides of industry who engage in such agreements around terms and conditions — particularly when the employer is tendering for contracts.

“Ultimately, I believe the legislation will improve industrial relations after a period of uncertainty. It will also help to prevent a race to the bottom in terms of skills, training and terms and conditions of employment.”

Legislation which will establish the new Low-Pay Commission on a statutory basis is also being published. Every year, the Commission will make recommendations to Government on the appropriate rate of the national minimum wage.

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