Collective bargaining is not constitutionally or legally recognised in Irish law. In 2002, the Committee expressed concern at the continued impediments imposed by the State with respect to trade unions and collective bargaining. During its examination under the Universal Periodic Review in 2011, the State accepted a recommendation to enact legislation to recognise the right to collective bargaining through trade unions in compliance with Ireland’s international commitments.1
In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down an existing mechanism, in force for more than 70 years, which had facilitated informal collective bargaining2 as the term ‘collective bargaining’ had not been defined in legislation.3 While the Government has committed to introduce legislation to give effect to collective bargaining following consultations with trade unions and employer groups, the draft legislation has not yet been published.4 This is at a time when wages have stagnated but productivity has increased nationally, meaning that people are working longer hours for less money and do not have the power to negotiate collectively in order to improve and standardise conditions of work.
Members of An Garda Síochána (the Irish police force) are prohibited from joining a trade union by law.5 The European Social Committee upheld a collective complaint taken under the European Social Charter by the European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP) on behalf of its Irish member the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).6 The Committee found that there had been a breach of Articles 5 (right to organise) and 6 (right to collective bargaining) of the Revised European Social Charter. The Minister for Justice and Equality submitted a response to the Committee in June 2014 indicating that she favoured the right of Gardaí to join a trade union but that the right to strike raised ‘significant and sensitive issues’ and would have to be considered further.7
FLAC urges the Committee to recommend that the State:
Enact legislation to recognise the right to collective bargaining. The State must recognise and implement the right of workers in any sector to join a trade union.
1 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2011) Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Ireland, Geneva: OHCHR, p.21.
2 McGowan & Ors v Labour Court Ireland & Ors  2 I.L.R.M. 276
3 Industrial Relations Act 2001.For further information see Irish Congress of Trade Unions (2014) Interim Report Regarding the Implementation of Recommendation 107.46 Received by Ireland: Universal Periodic Review, Dublin: ICTU, pp. 6-7.
4 Irish Congress of Trade Unions (2014) Interim Report Regarding the Implementation of Recommendation 107.46 Received by Ireland: Universal Periodic Review, Dublin: ICTU, p.1.
5 An Garda Siochana Act 2005.
6 European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP) v Ireland, Complaint No. 83/2012.
7 Department of Justice and Equality, ‘Report to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe’, 19 June 2014.
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