Collective Bargaining in Ireland: lessons for Westminster?
29 April 2015 By Michael Doherty, Professor of Law and Head of the Department of Law at Maynooth University, Ireland The voluntarist system of employment relations that exists in Ireland is, of course, derived from that of the UK. Despite the common origins, however, a number of subtle differences have emerged, and persisted, over the years in relation to collective bargaining in the two countries. First, the statutory recognition procedure under the Employment Relations Act 1999 has no equivalent in Ireland. While the Irish Constitution protects the right of freedom of association, trade unions in Ireland enjoy no rights to be recognised for bargaining purposes by an employer. Employees are free to join a trade union, but they cannot insist their employer negotiate with that union regarding their pay and conditions. There is a framework under the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Acts 2001-2004 that allows a trade union to get a legally binding order in respect of specific member grievances, where employers refuse to bargain with the union, but this has been infrequently used since a successful Supreme Court challenge to its operation by the airline, Ryanair, in 2007.