The Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore, announced at the Labour party's recent national conference that it will honour a commitment made in its Programme for Government to bring forward legislation on employees' rights to engage in collective bargaining
The backdrop to the proposed legislation is a number of decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)1 in which the ECHR recognised that the European Convention on Human Rights contained a right to collectively bargain. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union contains a similar right to that of the Convention and as a result the Irish position is out of line with its European counterparts. The Irish government indicated its commitment to publish legislation to deal with what has been seen as our non-compliance with a fundamental human right.
However any legislation published will have to take into account the Supreme Court decision in the case of Ryanair v the Labour Court2. Ryanair challenged a decision of the Labour Court which required them to collectively bargain under the Industrial Relations Act 2001. The Supreme Court overturned the Labour Court decision holding that "any such legislation needs to be given a proportionate and constitutional interpretation so as to not to unreasonably encroach on Ryanair's right to operate a non-unionised company".
Given the competing interests at stake, it will be interesting to see how the Government can legislate for a solution that will satisfy both employee and employer interests. The next step is for Memorandum on the issue to be brought before the cabinet on 17 December. We will monitor the progress on this topic.