By Neil McGowan, SIPTU Manufacturing Divisional Organiser

Across the Manufacturing Division, we are all too familiar with the problems workers have organising and achieving collective bargaining in workplaces where the employer is hostile toward our Union.

This scenario is familiar to workers and activists right across the county in companies like STERIS in County Offaly, AbbVie, Stryker, Eli Lily and DePuy in Cork, Lisk in County Galway and Coca-Cola in County Mayo.

Many members are familiar with the current process of taking our case for collective bargaining to the Labour Court, winning a favourable recommendation but in the face of intransience from the employer being left with no option but to ballot for industrial action.

In recent years, brave workers like those in AbbVie and Lisk have taken industrial action to assert their right to collective bargaining. Surely, in 2024 in a developed Western Democracy we can and must do better than forcing workers to take industrial action to secure what is their right to organise collectively into a union without fear of harassment and victimisation.

Ireland is a laggard in comparison to our peers in Europe in terms of collective bargaining and workers’ rights, particularly protections for Shop Stewards. The EU Directive on Adequate Minimum Wages, which must be transposed into Irish Law in November, may provide us with an opportunity to right this wrong.

It is important that the Government does not water down the Directive to make it effectively “meaningless” for the majority of workers.

It is time to protect the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining and to protect workers and trade union representatives from acts of anti-union discrimination and interference including union busting.

This is what the Respect to Work at campaign is all about, workers in Ireland deserve no less.

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