THE country’s largest trade union followed Irish farmers last night in warning the Government it would support the Lisbon treaty only if certain preconditions are met.
It means that with less than two weeks to polling day on June 12, the Government is still sweating on two crucial voting blocs.
SIPTU, which represents almost 250,000 workers, said it would not support the treaty unless the Government promised to legislate to ensure the right to collective bargaining.
This is the practice whereby workers organise collectively as a union and negotiate with their employers on pay and conditions.
If the treaty is passed, it would give legal force to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which includes provisions to give workers the right to collective bargaining.
However, SIPTU says the Government would have to introduce laws to give effect to these provisions in Ireland.
Before it gives its support to the treaty, SIPTU wants the Government to promise it will introduce such legislation.
The union’s general president, Jack O’Connor, said a lack of Irish legislation would make for a “watered down version” of the treaty which SIPTU would not support.
Despite the headache the union demand created for the Government, Taoiseach Brian Cowen played it cool last night.
He welcomed SIPTU’s positive view of the treaty and Charter of Fundamental Rights, but regretted that the union had linked collective bargaining to the referendum.
“SIPTU see the treaty itself as a good thing and a good treaty for everybody. I regret the fact there is a linkage, but it is their right and entitlement to put that point of view,” he said.
Discussion of legislation on collective bargaining could take place at the ongoing social partnership talks, he added, but warned the issue could not be resolved before polling day.
Labour, the party most traditionally supportive of the unions, described SIPTU’s stance as “disappointing” and said the union was “playing politics” when it should be judging the treaty on its merits and voting accordingly.
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