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Congress seeks ILO assistance to ensure Government honours pledge on union rights

Date Released: 14 June 2013

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions today (June 14) formally requested the assistance of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to ensure the Irish Government makes good on a commitment to give legal backing to the right of workers to collectively bargain with employers, through a trade union.

The call for international assistance was made by Congress Legal Affairs Officer, Esther Lynch, in an address to ILO delegates at the international body’s annual gathering, which runs from June 5-20.

The ILO is the United Nations’ agency for labour affairs and monitors labour standards globally.

Addressing delegates Lynch said: “It is a matter of grave concern to trade unions in Ireland that despite our government’s solemn commitment to the ILO to give effect to the right to collective bargaining through a trade union, no visible action has yet been taken. Nor has the government conducted the Independent Inquiry requested by the ILO.”

In 2011, Congress submitted a formal complaint to the ILO on the lack of legal effect for the right to collective bargaining in Ireland, in breach of the state’s international obligations.

In response, said Lynch, the government gave a solemn commitment to act.

“While we acknowledge that a commitment to legislate for collective bargaining was included in the Programme for Government, thus far we haven’t progressed much beyond that,” she said.

“Action is needed now, which is why Congress is formally requesting ILO assistance in this matter.

“Indeed, if reported recent remarks by Richard Bruton - Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation - to an employers' conference earlier this week are accurate, then it seems there is little serious intent to legislate in line with the relevant ILO conventions and human rights jurisprudence,” she said.

Minister Bruton was reported on June 12 as telling an employers’ conference that mandatory trade union involvement is not being planned and collective bargaining would “always be voluntary.”

Lynch told delegates that “it endangers all human rights if employers are allowed to claim a veto on this fundamental human right.”

She pointed out that Ireland has “no option but to enact legislation to give effect to the right to collective bargaining, as we are party to international treaties – including ILO Conventions – that oblige the state to ‘protect and fulfil’ the rights set out in those treaties.

“That means Ireland must take positive action to safeguard the practice of all basic human rights, including the right of a worker to be represented by their trade union for collective bargaining.

“There are many ways to give effect to the right to collective bargaining and now we need to see action,” Lynch concluded.

A full version of Esther Lynch’s address to the ILO is available at http://www.ictu.ie/download/pdf/address_by_esther_lynch_to_102nd_session_of_the_ilo.pdf


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