Government must hear the clear call of the Citizens assembly; women workers need the legal right to collective bargaining in Ireland

25 April 2021

Labour spokesperson for employment affairs, Senator Marie Sherlock, has said the outcome of the Citizens’ Assembly deliberations is a major breakthrough in the pursuit of gender equality in Ireland.

Senator Sherlock said :

“The breadth of the recommendations recognise that there is so much work to be done to bring about greater gender equality- whether it be for carers, parents of young children, within education, media, leadership and political representation and importantly in the world of work.

“In particular, support for a “legal right to collective bargaining to improve wages, working conditions and rights in all sectors” is a major breakthrough today.

“Ireland stands almost unique across the European union in not having a legal right for workers here to be recognised for collective bargaining purposes.

“This recommendation was overwhelmingly supported by the assembly with 96.7% in support. It is a recognition that in order for women to secure greater security, pay and conditions in their work, they should be entitled to collectively bargain with their employers.

“I’m also particularly pleased that there are also very specific recommendations on introducing gender pay gap legislation and setting hourly gender pay gap targets which are a crucial starting point in shining a light on pay disparities within workplaces. This was spearheaded by my colleague Senator Ivana Bacik back in 2018 and despite lots of promises, it is only now there are some signs of movement from Government.

“Importantly, the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations recognises that women themselves must also be equipped to address inequality within their workplace. It recognises that gender pay gap legislation and collective bargaining are both necessary to reducing gender inequality with regards to pay, promotion and access to training.

“There is now a growing body of international research which shows that countries with higher levels of co-ordinated bargaining tend to have lower wage dispersion and those with lower wage dispersion tend to have less of an earnings gap between men and women in the labour force.

“In Ireland, average weekly pay for women was 25.05% less than it was for men according to the CSO’s latest available administrative earnings data which was for 2018. This is because women earn less per hour but also many are trapped in part time jobs with lessor access to pay progression and job promotion. In 2020, 29% of all women in employment in this country were working part time hours according to the CSO’s labour force survey data compared to just 11% of men.

“If the Government is serious about tackling gender inequality in the workplace, then it must introduce its gender pay bill as a matter of urgency and it must give its full support to the proposed EU Directive on Adequate Minimum wages and the EU Directive on Gender Pay Transparency, both of which would be major steps in boosting women’s equality in the workplace.”

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