SIPTU Vice-President, Patricia King, has described the approval by the Government, on Tuesday (13th May), of a new law to support the right of workers to participate in collective bargaining with their employers as a “very positive step” for Irish society. The move follows years of intensive campaigning by SIPTU and other unions to have the right of workers to collective bargaining recognised in Irish law. The proposed new legislation also provides protection against victimisation for workers seeking to exercise their right to collective bargaining as well as restricting attempts by employers to incentivise people against using it. “It is a very positive step for workers as it provides for an effective system whereby workers who are not covered by collective bargaining can, through their trade union, improve their terms and conditions of employment,” Patricia King said. The proposed law is designed to overcome the major impediment posed by the way the Supreme Court has interpreted the constitutional entitlement of freedom of association as freedom for employers not to recognise unions or independent workers’ organisations. “Where workers are not currently covered by collective bargaining this legislation provides access only for trade unions to process claims on their behalf. This will restore the balance in the worker-employer relationship,” Patricia King said. Under these proposals workers, through their trade unions, may obtain a binding decision from the Labour Court or the Circuit Court providing for improvements to their pay or terms of employment if the employer does not comply with the new legislation. It also makes non-compliance by an employer found by the Labour Court to have victimised an employee to be a criminal offence. Patricia King added: “These proposals agreed by the Cabinet have yet to be enacted by both houses of the Oireachtas. However, obtaining Government approval for the measure is a key step in pursuit of an objective for which Irish workers have been fighting since the 1913 Lockout.” See pages 17-20