It has been the consistent policy of successive Irish Governments to promote collective bargaining through the laws of this country and through the development of an institutional framework supportive of a voluntary system of industrial relations that is premised upon freedom of contract and freedom of association. There is an extensive range of statutory provisions designed to back up the voluntary bargaining process.
Under Irish law, there is no requirement for an employer to recognise trade unions for the purpose of collective bargaining. Article 40 of the Irish Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to form associations and unions. It has been established in a number of legal cases that the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of association does not guarantee workers the right to have their union recognised for the purpose of collective bargaining.
However it is also worth noting that the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015, which came into effect in August 2015, provides an improved framework for employees’ right to engage in collective bargaining. The 2015 Act provides a clear and balanced mechanism by which the fairness of the employment conditions of workers in their totality can be assessed where collective bargaining does not take place.
The Minister for Health will be able to provide the Deputy with further information on this matter.