22 May 2019

Owen Brexit 1

There is one fundamental issue that unites and binds all of us together. It doesn’t matter if we come from the north, south, east or west of Europe. Regardless of the political cultures of the countries, we come from.

That one thing is the universal right for working woman and men to have the right to free collective bargaining in their work.

We do not believe the full expression of democracy and participation is merely casting a vote once every four years, and we believe that all workers across Europe and our world must have the right to influence and shape the conditions under which they work.

Yet today in Ireland, all workers do not have this fundamental right.

This is despite the fact that all the independent evidence shows that not only is collective bargaining good for workers in respect of their pay and conditions, but - it also boosts productivity, it improves efficiency, it improves workers wellbeing and it makes our societies and economies that bit more equal.

You cannot truly have decent work without the right to collective bargaining.

In Ireland, we have a so-called ‘voluntary’ model of industrial relations. Voluntary for WHO, I ask?

Trade union density and collective bargaining coverage is in decline. We have to ask who does this model serve?

Despite the fact that Irish governments are always centre right led, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has achieved some improvements in seeking to get some sectoral bargaining in some industries such as security and contract cleaning.

Even though the government promotes this type of sectoral bargaining in certain industries, the majority of employers in other industries – especially hospitality and retail – they refuse to engage and there is no sanction from the authorities.   It's voluntary! Therein lies the weakness of our model.

We have 2 sectoral employment orders in construction and electrical contracting, but rogue employers in the electrical industry are trying to take a judicial review which seeks to suppress the legislation that frames these modest attempts at some form of collective bargaining.

Our Congress in Ireland is launching a new policy document entitled “Realising the Transformative Effect of Social Dialogue and Collective Bargaining in Ireland” at our all island Congress this July.

We are seeking to address the collective bargaining deficit.

One of our key proposals is to promote the idea of an EU Directive on Collective Bargaining.

But in so doing we want to ensure that our colleagues in other jurisdictions that already enjoy decent forms of collective bargaining today, do not lose in any way in the future what they now enjoy.

Surely it is in all our interests that workers right across our continent enjoy decent work, decent pay. Without a right to collective bargaining, this cannot be achieved.

Our interests and mission as a global movement of working women and men, don’t stop at some man-made border. The essence of our movement is internationalism. We cannot leave anybody behind.

So I ask you to support and endorse the work of the Secretariat and Executive in seeking to definitively promote collective bargaining right across our European Union.

Let us start to plan, to organise and to develop a strategy that does just that so that we can rebuild social Europe in our own vision for all its people, north, south, east and west. The time is now, not later!