Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Questions (95, 96)

Robert Dowds

Question:

108 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the names of all of the cases in the European Court of Human Rights that give rise to the commitment in the programme for Government to reform the law on the right to collective bargaining; the issue in each case that gives rise to such a concern and the details of the relevant legislation, including where current legislation is in breach, the name of the Act and the number of the section or sections concerned. [7891/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

In the so-called "Wilson" judgment, (Wilson, National Union of Journalists and Others v. United Kingdom [2002] 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.

Robert Dowds

Question:

109 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if any legislation on the rights of workers needs to be amended to ensure that the rights contained in the Lisbon treaty and in the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union are fully reflected in Irish law; if so, which provisions of the treaty or the charter give rise to such a need and which Acts of the Oireachtas need to be amended. [7892/11]

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The Lisbon Treaty recognises and underpins the positive developments in employment rights protection. Under the Treaty, fundamental rights are recognised through the incorporation of a legally binding reference to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. This includes the right to negotiate collective agreements and to take collective action, the right to information and consultation within undertakings, the right of access to free placement services and protection against unjustified dismissals.

Ireland already has an extensive legal framework for collective bargaining and the protection of employment rights. In addition, statutory mechanisms have been put in place to ensure the protection of employee rights in the absence of arrangements for voluntary collective bargaining. Among the rights which underpin the legal structure in Ireland is the right to form and join trade unions which also features in article 12 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Charter does not, however, require an employer to recognise a trade union. Neither the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty nor the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in circumstances where Member States are implementing Union law, require a revision of the existing legislative provision in Ireland on employment rights.