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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 8 Nov 1962

Vol. 197 No. 5

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Membership of Trade Unions.


asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether, in view of a number of cases which have recently occurred where employees were threatened with dismissal if they joined a trade union, he will issue a clear and concise statement explaining to the public at large that it is the right of any citizen to join a trade union, and warning employers that it is an offence against the constitutional rights of the citizen to victimise workers who wish to join a trade union.

The interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution which confer the right of free association is a matter primarily for the courts of law. As the Deputy is presumably aware, the courts, in various judgments, have emphasised the right of the individual worker to join the trade union of his choice. The question of whether this particular right conflicts with the legal right of employers to terminate the employment of workers is a matter to be decided by the courts if and when a particular case is brought before them. It would, therefore, not be appropriate for me to make a statement on the lines suggested by the Deputy.

I have asked the Minister to make a clear and concise statement explaining to the public at large their rights under the Constitution. I am not advocating that the Minister should say "you should or should not join a particular trade union". I am asking the Minister: is he prepared to make it publicly known that a person is free to join a trade union and that the employer is not entitled to threaten dismissal, if workers join trade unions?

It has been clearly set out in the Constitution and has been interpreted by judgments of the courts. Even if I did make a statement, it would have no legal effect.

Perhaps the Minister is not aware, but there are still a very considerable number of employers who do not know that position and, unfortunately, a considerable number of workers believe what is said to them by the employers.

That is a statement, not a question.

My experience of workers is that they know their rights fairly well.

May I point out to the Minister that the people I am interested in are people who are not in membership of any trade union, people who are setting out and considering joining a trade union but who are deterred by threats from employers?

I can only repeat that any statement I would make would have no legal effect whatever.

As a responsible Minister, the Minister could make a statement as to how he feels about it.