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IHREC calls for action on collective bargaining
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22 Dec 2023 / employment Print

IHREC calls for action on collective bargaining

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has called for the introduction of a statutory framework and protection for collective bargaining.

The organisation has published new research from legal academics on the issue, in a paper entitled Collective Bargaining and the Irish Constitution – Barrier or Facilitator?

The report found that there were no conflicting rights in the Irish Constitution that would prevent the Government from introducing such a framework.

Ireland ‘an outlier’

IHREC described Ireland as “an outlier among European countries” in not protecting an entitlement to engage in collective bargaining, and in its low rates of collective bargaining.

It added that this could have a particular impact on structurally vulnerable groups.

The commission said that a statutory framework and protection for collective bargaining was now “essential, regardless of whether the right to collective bargaining is specifically recognised in the Constitution”.

The research, authored by law experts from Oxford and Trinity universities, points out that both the EU Charter and European Convention on Human Rights protect collective bargaining.

Legal obligation

The study notes that, although there were previously constitutional barriers to such a protection related to delegation of legislative power, these were greatly reduced in a landmark Supreme Court judgment in 2021.

IHREC pointed out that Ireland was required to transpose the Directive on Adequate Minimum Wages in the European Union by November 2024.

This directive includes a legal obligation on member states with less than 80% of the workforce covered by collective bargaining agreements to adopt measures to increase coverage. IHREC says that the current figure for the Irish workforce is 35%.

“As the Irish Constitution itself provides for the supremacy of EU law over national law, it is clear that legislation needs to be swiftly progressed in order to comply with our obligations,” the commission said.

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