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.
The right of workers to form associations and join a trade union is enshrined in Article 40 of the Irish Constitution. However, our Superior Courts have established 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.
Notwithstanding this, it has been the consistent policy of successive Irish Governments to promote collective bargaining through legislation and by 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 support collective bargaining within the concept of voluntarism. The freedom of association and the right to organise and bargain collectively are also guaranteed in a number of international instruments which the State has ratified and which it is, therefore, bound to uphold under international law.
A decision by this Government to legislate for an improved framework in this area resulted in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 which came into effect on 1st August 2015.
The legislation provides a clear and balanced mechanism by which the fairness of the employment conditions of workers in their totality can be assessed in employments where collective bargaining does not take place and brings clarity and certainty for employers in terms of managing their workplaces in this respect.
Given this background, and the robust measures which have been put in place to support collective bargaining within a voluntarist industrial relations framework, the Government has no plans to legislate further on trade union recognition.