In the so-called "Wilson" judgment, (Wilson, National Union of Journalists and Others v. United Kingdom  ECHR 552) the European Court of Human Rights Court found in favour of a UK-based journalist and a group of British dockworkers, who were denied pay increases after they refused to sign personal contracts. Their unions had appealed a UK law courts decision on the issue.
The ECHR judgment found that under United Kingdom law at the relevant time it was possible for an employer effectively to undermine or frustrate a trade union's ability to strive for the protection of its members' interests. Accordingly, the ECHR concluded that, by permitting employers to use financial incentives to induce employees to surrender important trade union rights, the UK had failed in its positive obligation to secure the enjoyment of the rights under the European Convention for the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.
In Ireland Section 8 of the Industrial Relations Act 2004 provides for a prohibition on victimisation of an employee by his employer on account of him being or not being a member of a trade union or engaging or not engaging in trade union activity. ‘Victimisation' is defined as any act, of commission or omission, which adversely affects the interests of the employee or his wellbeing. The prohibition applies where the mechanisms provided under the Industrial Relations Acts 2001 to 2004 to deal with situations where an employer does not engage in collective bargaining have been invoked.
There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to ensure that Irish law on employees' right to engage in collective bargaining is consistent with recent judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. This process will require consultation with stakeholders and a review of the experience of the operation of the existing legislative framework as put in place under the Industrial Relations Acts of 2001 and 2004 and the consequences of the litigation that has arisen in the course of the operation of these Acts.