Unions join forces in call for major reforms of workers’ rights

April 4, 2024

Several of Ireland’s largest trade union groups have joined forces calling for a major reform of workers’ rights.

The Respect at Work campaign says there should be cross party-political support guaranteeing greater protections for employees in the workplace.

SIPTU, the Financial Services Union, Mandate Trade Union and the Communication Workers’ Union are all backing the new campaign.

The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) is also supporting the initiative.

Studies show that young workers view trade unions as ‘essential’ for navigating tricky workplace situations, guaranteeing people fair treatment and gaining real respect at work.

National Student Voice Organiser for the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU), Maeve Richardson, said: “Recent UCD research showed that 67% of people aged between 16 and 24 years are positively disposed to trade unions. This underscores a significant and growing positive shift in attitudes towards trade unions in Ireland. This is a welcome breakthrough that offers real hope for the future.”

The Government is being asked to ensure that workers have a legal right to organise a trade union in their workplace and are protected from discrimination and dismissal while doing so.

The campaign is demanding legal protections that would “ensure that employee representatives and union Shop Stewards have the protections they need while representing the interests of their colleagues”, campaign spokesperson Ethel Buckley said.

EU Directive on minimum wages and collective bargaining

The campaign is timed to coincide with the required transposition of an EU Directive on minimum wages and collective bargaining, which the Irish Government must write into law by November of this year.

The Directive requires countries where less than 80% of workers are covered by collective agreements to introduce new measures to promote collective bargaining between unions and employers.

It is estimated that around 34% of workers in Ireland currently have their wages and conditions bargained collectively.

Speaking at the launch of the Respect at Work campaign, Ethel Buckley said: “We are calling for legislative change and the strongest possible transposition of this Directive in workers’ best interests, not a watered-down version that renders it meaningless.”

According to campaigners, Ireland has the weakest workers’ protections in western Europe.

The right to organise a trade union in the workplace and associated protections against discrimination and dismissal for workers and employee representatives is the ‘norm’ across Europe. This is not the case in Ireland, according to campaigners.

Ireland is also ‘out of step’ with European norms when it comes to a worker’s right to access information in the workplace. In many European countries workers have a right to access a union official in their workplace in order to get advice and support.

”We call on all political parties to support the introduction of legislation this year to ensure greater protections for employees in the workplace,” Ethel Buckley said.

A recent Ireland Thinks poll found that 74% of people believe employers should be legally obliged to negotiate with a trade union if employees wish them to do so.

The same poll found that a majority of voters who support each of the political parties in Dáil Éireann believe that this should be the case.

“The Directive requires Ireland to promote constructive, meaningful and informed negotiations on wage-setting between trade unions and employer bodies,” Ms Buckley said.

Article Source – Unions join forces in call for major reforms of workers’ rights – RTE

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