Swift, heavy and enforceable fines for employers who deny collective bargaining rights to workers says Sherlock

10 February 2024

Labour Party spokesperson on Workers’ Rights Marie Sherlock, has today called for swift, heavy, and enforceable fines to be handed out to employers who deny workers their civil right to collective bargaining through a trade union.

Speaking in advance of a special event in Connect Trade Union later today to discuss a plan of action around the transposition of the EU Directive on Adequate Minimum Wages, Senator Sherlock said:

“Our conversation is about making this once-in-a-generation directive work for working people and to ensure that trade unions can freely and fairly organise the hundreds of thousands of workers who want a union. This approach will make sure a system of sectoral and enterprise collective bargaining can be sustained in the decades to come.”

“In an ideal world, we want employers to take a partnership approach to this directive and work with unions. The state must take a much more active role in making this happen. However, in all reality, we have a hands-off approach when it comes to collective bargaining in this country. The state must offer carrots, but it also must act as a stick for bad employers. We know that there is a glaring gap in parts of Irish labour law in that it fails to penalise employers for bad behaviour. This needs to change.

“As part of our new Workers’ Charter, Labour will propose a model of proper collective redress that will put in place swift, heavy, and enforceable fines for employers who deny workers their civil right to access collective bargaining through their trade union. We would also make sure that the workers themselves are compensated, rather than any potential fine being funnelled back into the state coffers. That is not a real deterrent. We believe this will be an effective, proportionate, and dissuasive approach to combating egregious behaviour and will help turn the tide on anti-union activity, union busting, and bad employers in Ireland.

“The payment of wages and unfair dismissals both confine remedy to the losses incurred by the worker with no substantial consequence for the employer. This also needs to change. As trade unionists, we know the best way for work to really pay is through collective bargaining, not through minimum wage legislation; it’s through the effective and proper empowerment of unions to do their job. We do this by levelling the playing field and creating the space for unions to negotiate with employers as equals. That is our long-term ambition for this directive—a generational opportunity to improve the working lives of people in this country.”

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