Dáil Éireann - Volume 657 - 19 June, 2008
Written Answers. - Industrial Relations.
Deputy James Bannon Deputy James Bannon
Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the legal position with regard to collective bargaining; if she will amend the law in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23994/08]
Deputy Emmet Stagg Deputy Emmet Stagg
Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the legislation in force to give effect to International Labour Organisation Conventions No. 87 — the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention 1948, and No. 98 — the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention 1949; if she  is satisfied that rights under both conventions and in particular the right to collective bargaining are adequately protected by Irish law; if she has proposals to amend the law in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23970/08]
Deputy Mary Coughlan Deputy Mary Coughlan
Deputy Mary Coughlan: I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 23 together.
Ireland is a signatory to both International Labour Organisation Conventions No. 87 on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise 1948 and No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention 1949 since 1955 and Ireland’s laws have been in compliance with these conventions since that date. Ireland ratifies a convention only where our law and practice are in full conformity with it.
To that extent, in ratification, the Conventions have the status of international treaties and Ireland is obliged to adhere to the core objectives established in each of the ILO Conventions, which must be reflected in national practice. Specifically, the enactment of legislation by the Oireachtas across the full range of fundamental labour and social rights comprehends and underpins the realisation of the standards set in these ILO Conventions. These objectives are also realised through the delivery of commitments entered into, for example, in National Partnership Agreements. Ireland’s continuing progress in the achievement of these goals is subject to ongoing review and evaluation by the ILO itself, in consultation with the Social Partners.
The Irish Constitution guarantees the right to form and join trade unions. The Courts have upheld the right to take strike action subject only to regard for the legal and constitutional rights of the parties affected. Trade unions, their officials and members who are engaged in industrial action are granted immunity from criminal and civil liability in circumstances defined in the Industrial Relations Act 1990. Trade union representatives and workers are also protected against unfair treatment through provisions contained in the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2007, the Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 and in the 1993 code of practice entitled “Duties and responsibilities of employee representatives and the protection and facilities afforded them by their employers”.
Trade unions who hold a negotiating licence are free to engage in collective bargaining on wages and conditions of employment, as are excepted bodies, essentially bodies whose workers are employed by the same employer and negotiate only on their own behalf. There is no legal or constitutional requirement for an employer to negotiate with a trade union, although the Courts have ruled that it is legitimate for a trade union to engage in industrial action in pursuit of recognition.
Ireland’s system of industrial relations is based on a voluntary approach with terms and conditions of employment being determined in the main by a process of voluntary collective bargaining between the parties, without the intervention of the State. The collective bargaining process can cover the entire range of issues arising from the employment relationship.
The State has sought to facilitate the bargaining process through establishing, by legislation, a number of agencies to assist in the resolution of disputes. These agencies are: the Labour Relations Commission, the Labour Court and the Rights Commissioner Service. There are also statutory provisions designed to back up the voluntary process in areas where the parties so wish. The most important provisions are those concerning Joint Labour Committees and Registered Employment Agreements. In addition, the 2004 Enhanced Code of Practice on Voluntary Dispute Resolution and the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001, as amended by the Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004, provide mechanisms for the resol ution of disputes in situations where collective bargaining does not occur and the internal dispute resolution procedures normally used fail to resolve the dispute.
The issue of collective bargaining and the arrangements necessary to support it, particularly having regard to trade union concerns about the operation of the legislation in this area, are under discussion with the social partners in the current social partnership discussions.
Dáil Éireann 657 Written Answers. Industrial Relations.