Government is undermining EU draft directive on workers rights

Senator Marie Sherlock
07 February 2021
  • Sherlock slams Tánaiste’s solo run.

At end of January, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar co-signed a letter with eight other Employment affairs ministers in an attempt to undermine the German Presidency’s directive on adequate minimum wages. 

Reacting to this letter, Labour employment affairs spokesperson Senator Marie Sherlock said this is a direct and blatant attempt to hobble a directive before it ever gets off the ground.

“This letter is a direct attack on the work of the German Presidency and it sets the Government against their own fellow EPP member and Commission President Ursula van der Leyen who singled out the Commission’s intent to set down a framework for the setting of adequate minimum wages across the EU in her State of the Union address.

“This draft directive, if enacted, will represent the single most important development for workers rights in decades. The directive stipulates that where countries has collective bargaining coverage below 70%, they must put in place a framework for the enablement of collective bargaining to take place. Collective bargaining coverage in Ireland is just over 30%.

 The letter represents an unholy alliance of countries encompassing those who already have excellent collective bargaining coverage such as Austria, Denmark, Netherland, Sweden and Estonia and those who are anti- workers rights such as Hungary and Poland. By signing this letter, Ireland is firmly placing itself in the later category”

“Furthermore, this intervention by the Tanaiste is disingenuous. The letter raises questions about the compatibility of the draft directive with the Treaties. Before Christmas, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment attempted to raise threadbare concerns about the issue of a subsidiarity breach by the proposed directive. Legal opinion from seven experts of the highest standing from across Ireland and in the UK unambiguously and very clearly stated that no such concerns arise. Only one legal opinion raised a concern. 

“There are key questions now for Fianna Fáil and the Green Party as to whether they support the Tánaiste and Fine Gael in blocking progress for workers in the country.

“The reality is that in Ireland there are hundreds of thousands of workers who are blocked from coming together to collectively negotiate with their employer for their wages and their conditions or when there is a problem in the workplace. This stands in marked contrast to workers in Northern Ireland, Britain and most other EU member states.”

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