I understand that the dispute at issue relates to certain terms and conditions of employment, including that of pay and contractual security which the trade union Mandate is seeking to negotiate on behalf of its members.
At the outset, I must emphasise that Ireland’s system of industrial relations is, essentially, voluntary in nature and responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes between employers and workers, rests with the employer, the workers and their representatives.
For its part, the State provides the industrial relations dispute settlement mechanisms i.e. the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court, to support parties in their efforts to resolve their differences. These bodies are independent in the delivery of their quasi-judicial functions, in which I as Minister have no role. This approach has served Ireland well over the years and in a large number of high profile disputes.
I understand it is the company's position that it does not recognize trade unions but has in place an internal mechanism for employee engagement. Under Irish law there is no obligation on employers to recognize trade unions and there are no plans to bring forward legislation to provide for mandatory trade union recognition. However, it has been the consistent policy of successive Irish Governments to support a voluntarist system of industrial relations with a robust statutory framework supportive of collective bargaining.
The most recent legislation to facilitate this is the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 which came into effect on 1 August 2015 and was the result of an in-depth consultation with stakeholders, including employer and worker representatives, and a review of the experience of the operation of the existing legislative framework.
The 2015 Act makes provision, in instances where employers engage in collective bargaining with an ‘internal excepted body’ as opposed to a trade union, for a referral to be made to the Labour Court to establish if internal bargaining bodies are genuinely independent of their employer. If the Court finds that the mechanism is not independent it can then proceed to hear the dispute at issue.
I would like to stress the merit of both parties working closely and with the dispute handling mechanisms of the State to make every effort to reach a resolution on the issues in dispute to achieve a positive outcome for the employees, the company and the customers of the company.