Electricians and employers in dispute

ELECTRICIANS and their employers could be on a collision course once more after one of the biggest employer bodies withdrew from discussions on a new pay deal for the industry.

The executive of the Association of Electrical Contractors Ireland (AECI) has written to the Labour Relations Commission not only informing it of its withdrawal from the negotiations on a new registered employment agreement (REA) for the electrical industry, but also that it is “pursuing members’ instructions for the removal of the REA for this industry”.

The REA is a legally-binding agreement which sets pay and conditions for 10,000 industry workers.

In 2009, thousands of electricians went on strike over employers’ refusal to pay an increase that unions said was due to them under the REA. Since then the construction industry has all but collapsed and many electrical employers are non-compliant with the REA rates in order to secure what contracts remain.

In recent weeks, the AECI, other electrical employers, and electricians’ trade union Technical Engineering and Electrical Union had been in protracted negotiations under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission to agree a new REA.

In its latest letter to the commission, the AECI said: “A particular part of the discussion ranged around the issue of non-compliancy within our industry and to this end a separate meeting was arranged between all parties to the agreement and National Employment Rights Authority, the official body charged by the Government with ensuring that wages and conditions of the REA are adhered to.”

On October 19, AECI delegates reported back to the executive.

“The Executive do not accept that the proposal put forward on the reduction in either wages, conditions of employment, or the methodology for setting such wages and conditions is capable of meeting the requirements of our members and do not reflect the wage rates and conditions which are being paid by non-compliant contractors and worked for by employees in the market place.”

AECI also criticised the National Employment Rights Authority, which it said, “is not in a position to defend our members against the rates and conditions being applied both by non compliant contractors and non compliant electricians”.

“The Executive have therefore instructed their delegates to immediately cease these current negotiations and to pursue our members instructions for the removal of the REA for this Industry,” it said.

A Technical Engineering and Electrical Union spokesman said unless a new REA was agreed by all sides, the existing agreement will still be legally binding.

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