Ireland viewed as reactionary state, says union chief

IRELAND is viewed in the developed world as a “reactionary state” because of the absence of collective bargaining rights, it has been claimed.

Speaking at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference in Killarney, IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody said trade union visitors to Ireland were amazed at the absence of the right to collective bargaining for workers seeking representation in negotiation with employers.

“Ireland is unique with a Supreme Court observation determining national policy on a fundamental human right,” said Mr Cody. “The Supreme Court has, on two occasions considered the matter and concluded that the constitutional right to association also implies the right to disassociation. This gives employers the right to refuse to engage with the trade union representatives of a workforce. Internationally that leaves Ireland as the most reactionary state in the developed world.”

The IMPACT leader said some employers, ministers and industrial development organisations argued that a right to union recognition and bargaining would act as a barrier to foreign direct investment.

“This is a nonsense,” he said. “Many FDI companies like HP, IBM, IKEA, Radisson deal with unions elsewhere in Europe and around the world. Their approach is simple. If they must, they will. If it’s not mandatory, they won’t.”

He pointed out that the European Court of Human Rights has determined that the right to join a trade union includes the right to bargain collectively.

“The programme for Government contains a commitment to reform the current legislation so as to ensure compliance by the state with the judgments of the court,” he said. “This requires compliance with the collective bargaining ruling as well as the anti-victimisation one.”

Delegates at the conference backed a motion requiring the incoming executive of ICTU to prioritise engagement with Government with a view to securing the enactment of legislation that would enable trade unions to engage in collective bargaining on behalf of their members.

Meanwhile, Larry Broderick, general secretary of finance union IBOA, has called for an agreement similar to the Croke Park deal on reform in the public service to be introduced for bankers, meaning they would be guaranteed no compulsory redundancies or pay cuts.

Mr Broderick told delegates at the conference that up to 6,000 jobs were at risk if the Government pressed ahead with plans to focus resources on two pillar banks.

Mr Broderick said there would be no co-operation with changes in the banking sector unless a scheme similar to Croke Park was introduced for his members.

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