Two senior industrial relations trouble-shooters are to head up an inquiry into last month’s crippling electricians’ strike, it was revealed today.
Tánaiste Mary Coughlan has appointed former Congress general secretary Peter Cassells and former Labour Court chairman Finbarr Flood to investigate the bitter row.
But the major sticking point of pay will not be investigated as the Labour Court has already dealt with the issue.
Ms Coughlan said the inquiry would examine the causes of the dispute which led to some of the country’s flagship construction projects, like Lansdowne Road, virtually closing down.
The dispute between the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) and electrical contractors began as an issue over unpaid wage increases and descended into walk-outs and picket lines.
The inquiry will focus on the adequacy of negotiating and collective bargaining arrangements, the need, if any, for change in agreements and how they can be implemented.
The investigation will also look at ways of promoting adherence to employment standards within the sector.
“Both Mr Cassells and Mr Flood have long and distinguished track records in the industrial relations area,” Ms Coughlan said.
“Minister Calleary and I now call on all stakeholders in the electrical contracting sector to co-operate fully with their work in this investigation, the ultimate objective of which is to identify a way to restore the orderly conduct of relationships between all parties into the future.”
The TEEU said they were puzzled by the decision not to investigate the pay issue.
The union’s assistant general secretary Arthur Hall said one of the contractor groups, the Association of Electrical Contractors Ireland, has rejected pay terms agreed with other sides in the dispute.
“Pay remains an issue at the kernel of the dispute and without adherence to the terms of the settlement the possibility of renewed industrial action remains very much alive,” he said.
The TEEU said it remained committed to the registered employment agreement with the main contractors’ group, the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA).
But Mr Hall warned: “It is far from clear how the opposition of a number of smaller contractors to issues ranging from decent pay and conditions, to occupational pensions, and health and safety standards will be dealt with.”
The TEEU said the pay deals were under threat from employers who want a free-for-all on wages.