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The Reality for Trade Unions in the Republic: Basic Recognition Still Denied


Garibaldy

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Interesting article by Dary D'Art in the current issue of LookLeft discussing the reality of the position of trade unions within the Republic. Far from them running the state as a great deal of the media would have you believe, the basic democratic right to have your trade union recognised by an employer does not exist. A Supreme Court ruling of 2007 effectively facilitated the use of house unions (unions controlled by the company regardless of what the employees want) and stands in the way of legislation guaranteeing union recognition where the majority of employees want it.

"In both Canada and the United States employer-dominated bodies, or house unions, have been declared illegal since 1935. Convention 98 of the International Labour Organiation (ILO) – the international body which brings together representatives of governments, union and employers – categorises any workers’ organisation established under the control and domination of the employer as an interference with the right of freedom of association. In addition the ILO definitively dismisses the possibility that negotiation between an employer and employees within a house union or excepted body could ever be considered as collective bargaining. Officially the Irish State endorses Convention 98.

The 2007 Supreme Court judgement seems to even rule out the possibility that a law might be enacted to facilitate union recognition. Generally in countries where such laws are in force they operate on democratic principles. If a majority of employees either within the enterprise or a particular bargaining unit express a clear wish for union recognition then the employer is legally obliged to comply."

Time To Recognise : Look Left

In other words, there's more statuary recognition for trade unions in the United States than in the Republic.

Without an effective and legally-enforceable right to trade union recognition and genuine collective bargaining, Irish workers are being denied their basic democratic rights, and the absence of these rights is helping with the current attack on their living standards. Not that you'll hear much about this in the media, nor about the attack on the rights of workers across the EU the European Court's judgments in the Laval and Viking cases.

The rights of workers of all types are being systematically undermined through an attack on trade unions and trade union rights. They must fight back. D'Art's LookLeft article points to one of the most important aspects of the struggle for a better life and against the failures of the system that offers poor pay and conditions, unemployment and emigration.
 


realistic1

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Interesting article by Dary D'Art in the current issue of LookLeft discussing the reality of the position of trade unions within the Republic. Far from them running the state as a great deal of the media would have you believe, the basic democratic right to have your trade union recognised by an employer does not exist. A Supreme Court ruling of 2007 effectively facilitated the use of house unions (unions controlled by the company regardless of what the employees want) and stands in the way of legislation guaranteeing union recognition where the majority of employees want it.

"In both Canada and the United States employer-dominated bodies, or house unions, have been declared illegal since 1935. Convention 98 of the International Labour Organiation (ILO) – the international body which brings together representatives of governments, union and employers – categorises any workers’ organisation established under the control and domination of the employer as an interference with the right of freedom of association. In addition the ILO definitively dismisses the possibility that negotiation between an employer and employees within a house union or excepted body could ever be considered as collective bargaining. Officially the Irish State endorses Convention 98.

The 2007 Supreme Court judgement seems to even rule out the possibility that a law might be enacted to facilitate union recognition. Generally in countries where such laws are in force they operate on democratic principles. If a majority of employees either within the enterprise or a particular bargaining unit express a clear wish for union recognition then the employer is legally obliged to comply."

Time To Recognise : Look Left

In other words, there's more statuary recognition for trade unions in the United States than in the Republic.

Without an effective and legally-enforceable right to trade union recognition and genuine collective bargaining, Irish workers are being denied their basic democratic rights, and the absence of these rights is helping with the current attack on their living standards. Not that you'll hear much about this in the media, nor about the attack on the rights of workers across the EU the European Court's judgments in the Laval and Viking cases.

The rights of workers of all types are being systematically undermined through an attack on trade unions and trade union rights. They must fight back. D'Art's LookLeft article points to one of the most important aspects of the struggle for a better life and against the failures of the system that offers poor pay and conditions, unemployment and emigration.

The biggest threat to current workers comes from a Labour scheme called 'Jobsbridge' Has our great Irish union SIPTU even mentioned the threat??
 

feargach

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While people in Ireland badly need solidarity right now, the workplace is not really the best place to start.

As workers, Irish people (and first-world people in general) are as weak as water except in the few areas of paid work where the job cannot be outsourced to China.

As consumers, we are, in global terms, superheroes. A member of the Irish lower middle class has more buying power than dozens of his Brazilian or Chinese counterparts. Even on the dole you do better than even a well-paid Chinese person.

(For now)

Unionism as workers? Meh, I guess so. But the real power lies in using your wallet in solidarity in order to change the behaviour of powerful people.
 

Mountaintop

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Could the OP elaborate how union recognition ( as opposed to freedom of association) is a basic democratic right?

Similarly, could you also clarify how a 5 year old supreme court ruling to maintain the status quo, represents an attack?
 
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Franzoni

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Interesting article by Dary D'Art in the current issue of LookLeft discussing the reality of the position of trade unions within the Republic. Far from them running the state as a great deal of the media would have you believe, the basic democratic right to have your trade union recognised by an employer does not exist. A Supreme Court ruling of 2007 effectively facilitated the use of house unions (unions controlled by the company regardless of what the employees want) and stands in the way of legislation guaranteeing union recognition where the majority of employees want it.

"In both Canada and the United States employer-dominated bodies, or house unions, have been declared illegal since 1935. Convention 98 of the International Labour Organiation (ILO) – the international body which brings together representatives of governments, union and employers – categorises any workers’ organisation established under the control and domination of the employer as an interference with the right of freedom of association. In addition the ILO definitively dismisses the possibility that negotiation between an employer and employees within a house union or excepted body could ever be considered as collective bargaining. Officially the Irish State endorses Convention 98.

The 2007 Supreme Court judgement seems to even rule out the possibility that a law might be enacted to facilitate union recognition. Generally in countries where such laws are in force they operate on democratic principles. If a majority of employees either within the enterprise or a particular bargaining unit express a clear wish for union recognition then the employer is legally obliged to comply."

Time To Recognise : Look Left

In other words, there's more statuary recognition for trade unions in the United States than in the Republic.

Without an effective and legally-enforceable right to trade union recognition and genuine collective bargaining, Irish workers are being denied their basic democratic rights, and the absence of these rights is helping with the current attack on their living standards. Not that you'll hear much about this in the media, nor about the attack on the rights of workers across the EU the European Court's judgments in the Laval and Viking cases.

The rights of workers of all types are being systematically undermined through an attack on trade unions and trade union rights. They must fight back. D'Art's LookLeft article points to one of the most important aspects of the struggle for a better life and against the failures of the system that offers poor pay and conditions, unemployment and emigration.
The unions made their bed a long time ago when it came to representing workers.....i am still a member of a major union via a smaller union they amalgamated and they are useless when it comes to representing people within the private sector.....at one stage myself and a colleague who went to the union offices to find out what progress had been made on a certain matter,when we resisted attempts to be fobbed off and when we pursued the matter in a calm and rational way we were threatened with the gardai......!


I say this with no pleasure..my late father was a union official was a member of the old ITGWU and later SIPTU all his life and my grandfather took part in the lockout and according to family lore possibly knew Larkin...Irish unions that almagamated with British ones have been a distaster and too easily bought off ...the steady stream of income from the public sector has also distorted their outlook on the representation of members...
 

feargach

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Even for people in impossible-to-outsource jobs, there is strong pressure on them that renders the power of any union very weak.

Because of the army of unemployed created by outsourcing to China, there is a constant supply of eager people who are happy to retrain and get paid less than the current occupants of impossible-to-outsource positions.

So even with 100% union membership, the upside for members, in their capacity as employees, is terribly small.

At the end of the day, the employers' lobby can crush any employee group.
 

Franzoni

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Even for people in impossible-to-outsource jobs, there is strong pressure on them that renders the power of any union very weak.

Because of the army of unemployed created by outsourcing to China, there is a constant supply of eager people who are happy to retrain and get paid less than the current occupants of impossible-to-outsource positions.

So even with 100% union membership, the upside for members, in their capacity as employees, is terribly small.

At the end of the day, the employers' lobby can crush any employee group.
There are still a lot of places that as a contractor you are not allowed to enter the gates unless you have a valid and up to date union card.......uni's,hospitials and some large private companies including one well known brewery are a few i can think of off the top of my head...possibly it has changed as i've been out of work in that sector for the last five years but up to 2007 that was the case

Strangely enough the union i was a member of seemed to be happy once the person had a union card even if they aquired it in the UK and were working below the union rate here......

I agree with the points your making BTW.... one of the things that is scaring the unions is money.......the lack of subs due to mass unemployment is one of the things that is frightening the people in the cushy union jobs..one former colleague and a good friend informed me a while back he was approached by a union official on the site he was on for the first time that he can remember to see if he had any 'issues'.... and he worked on building site for nearly 30 years....

People are waking up to the fact they were paying for something that was of no use in the real world especially in the private sector as the outcome of any action was usually the loss of ones job and being labelled as a troublemaker...especially true within the building game where i worked.......
 

feargach

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usually the loss of ones job and being labelled as a troublemaker...especially true within the building game where i worked.......
That's a pretty good argument for taking away the right of builders to choose who can work for them.

If you're going to illegally discriminate against people, you should lose the right to pick whom you employ. Require them to specify a set of needed skills and qualifications, plus minimum experience, then they hire by lottery. "Troublemakers" and non-union alike.
 

Franzoni

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That's a pretty good argument for taking away the right of builders to choose who can work for them.

If you're going to illegally discriminate against people, you should lose the right to pick whom you employ. Require them to specify a set of needed skills and qualifications, plus minimum experience, then they hire by lottery. "Troublemakers" and non-union alike.
Ah....but you see some unions were in cahoots with the employers in this regard....and proving what you outline in a big problem...the will of the unions in taking on the employers in the private sector was lacking during the boom and even less so now i would imagine...i also remember being warned by one former shop steward that the local union rep had family working in the company we were with and that all i was going to get was a load of grief ....

The gave out union cards like confetti and a lot of employers used these as a qualification to the persons ability...ie... if the person said they were A and and the union card agreed the could charge what they liked for the persons 'skills'..it was win/win for both unions and employers....both were making money...

I don't want to turn this into a racist thing but a lot of eastern europeans gained entry to the irish construction sector in this manner..i met a lot who claimed they lost their papers/qualifications in the 'war' and gained union cards in the UK beofre landing here......i pointed out to several Polish lads that the Serbs to my knowledge hadn't invaded poland in a couple of hundred years and they looked a bit young to remember the second world war....:D!...along with this we had to put up with the constant IBEC/CIF sponsered propaganda of the 'lazy irish'.....a bit like the barrage the public sector now finds itself under..........
 

Schuhart

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<...>Far from them running the state as a great deal of the media would have you believe, the basic democratic right to have your trade union recognised by an employer does not exist. A Supreme Court ruling of 2007 effectively facilitated the use of house unions (unions controlled by the company regardless of what the employees want) and stands in the way of legislation guaranteeing union recognition where the majority of employees want it.<...>

In other words, there's more statuary recognition for trade unions in the United States than in the Republic. <...>
Hmm, I'm not sure this is really catching the political significance of the trade union movement. The pertinent point is that the public sector is heavily unionised, and they don't need Supreme Court rulings to underwrite their power.

Irish unions have had a huge degree of political access and power - to an extent that European unions could only envy - under the partnership process. Presently, they still have considerable power within the public sector - which is evidenced by the massive reluctance to ditch the Croke Part Agreement.

I think these realities need to be built into any analysis.
 

corporal punishment

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The Labour movement in this country is riddled with selfish me feinism. It's basically useless apart from lobbying for a very narrow intrest group, usually themselves.
My father was also a member of the ITGWU and shop steward at his place of work.
He was a lifelong labour voter but turned his back on the whole shoddy aaffair in the 80's.

The MN I work for has banned union membership with threats of withholding some of the few perks we get yet see's no problem with being members of IBEC.

Obviously I'm glad to have a job, but I see on a daily basis how tenouos my hold is on that job and the slightest hint of standing up for ourselves is stamped on.
 

McTell

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Garybaldy, I hate to remove the reason for your post but the "state" and supreme court are irrelevant. You should read the European Convention on Human Rights:

Article 11
1. "Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the inter- ests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and free- doms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restric- tions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State."
 

Blissett

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Good post Garibaldy.

Some dispute legally as to whether it would require a constitutional amendment or not to establish an effective right to recognition. What is your view?

Article 11
1. "Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the inter- ests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and free- doms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restric- tions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State."
Thats all sound, but doesnt establish a right to recognition, which fairly hobbles collective bargaining.
 

gatsbygirl20

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The Labour movement in this country is riddled with selfish me feinism. It's basically useless apart from lobbying for a very narrow intrest group, usually themselves.
My father was also a member of the ITGWU and shop steward at his place of work.
He was a lifelong labour voter but turned his back on the whole shoddy aaffair in the 80's.

The MN I work for has banned union membership with threats of withholding some of the few perks we get yet see's no problem with being members of IBEC.

Obviously I'm glad to have a job, but I see on a daily basis how tenouos my hold is on that job and the slightest hint of standing up for ourselves is stamped on.
It is incredible the change I've seen in my lifetime in the area of unions and workers' power. Thatcher may have "smashed" the unions, but at least she was living in a world where unions were a force to be reckoned with, and there was a language and discourse which articulated their case.

The anti-union propaganda of recent years has been incredibly successful, with some workers doing the heavy lifting in this area, jeering along with the media propaganda about "beards" etc, and making life easy for the kind of employers who are only too quick to press their advantage and threaten workers in the disgraceful manner outlined above

Every movement where human beings gather will have a fine share of "me feiners", selfish careerists, pocket-liners, and power mongers. Expecting union leaders to be idealistic saints is totally naive.

But to say that unions have failed is really to say at some level that workers themselves have failed---failed to organise, do the work, unseat the me-feiners, learn the law, take the test cases, elect the proper leaders, hold the head honchos to account, do the long hard, mind-bogglingly boring tasks, most of them voluntary, to keep unions alive, dynamic and relevant.

Because another successful campaign has been the notion that "unions" and their members are somehow different entities. This has been a brilliant stroke actually, and allows all kinds of lies and criticisms of unions to gain traction, while the employees themselves are exonerated--so long as they keep away from those bad unions...


Good post Garibaldy.

Some dispute legally as to whether it would require a constitutional amendment or not to establish an effective right to recognition. What is your view?



Thats all sound, but doesnt establish a right to recognition, which fairly hobbles collective bargaining.
The side-stepping of the law involved in not recognising unions, is the kind of disgraceful, immoral hair-splitting that, if it were occurring in any other area of life, would have the media down on the culprit like a ton of bricks.

It is incredible that this practice has become acceptable, and is not loudly objected to.. Silence everywhere. Not a peep. Now there's "the elephant in the room"--in the true meaning of that phrase.
 
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Garibaldy

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Good post Garibaldy.

Some dispute legally as to whether it would require a constitutional amendment or not to establish an effective right to recognition. What is your view?



Thats all sound, but doesnt establish a right to recognition, which fairly hobbles collective bargaining.
My own view is that given the Supreme Court ruling the best way of doing things would be a constitutional amendment, although I think the Supreme Court ruling was wrong myself.
 

Garibaldy

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Regarding all those pointing out the failures of the union movement. There are clearly very many problems with the union movement. Nevertheless it's no accident that workers' rights are weakest where unions are weakest. The failings of the union movement are no reason to abandon trade unionism; quite the opposite, they should be motivating people to get more involved.
 

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