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Legislation must be brought forward to provide for the right to trade union recognition - Funchion

13 April, 2013

This year marks the centenary of the 1913 Lockout , to be celebrated and commemorated throughout the country.  Regrettably what those brave men and women fought for 100 years ago has not been realised in the Ireland of today.

You cannot talk about workers’ rights and ignore the fact that the basic right to be represented by a trade union and have that union negotiate terms and conditions of employment for you is non-existent in the Ireland of 2013.

I meet countless workers who tell me their hours of work and wages are being cut, their employment conditions are being changed without their agreement but they have no recourse to a union for protection. Why?

Simply, because they fear victimisation, they fear bullying and they fear the loss of their job if they are even seen with a trade union representative let alone join a trade union, which can help give them the protection that they need.

Legislation must be brought forward to provide for the right to trade union recognition and also real penalties must be put in place for employers who victimise or adversely treat workers for joining a union. Employers have IBEC, ISME and a whole host of organisations to represent them, let us give workers the same basic fundamental right. Good and fair employers and business owners should support this as it shows respect for those who are the cornerstone of the enterprise.

Existing labour legislation needs to be strengthened, for example if a worker takes a claim in regards holidays that they are owed or an unauthorized wage cut, there are insufficient penalties for employers to deter them from breaking the laws.

Unfortunately along with the lack of penalties comes the lack of enforcement. There are many workers with successful claims against their employer but are left without a penny of the award in their pocket.Sinn Féin proposed legislation which would pass payments of these successful awards to the person concerned in the same way as it now does for redundancy and insolvency payments. The Government would then follow up retrieving this money from the employer concerned.

Perhaps the points raised of the right to trade union representation, penalties and enforcement are just too much to expect from a Fine Gael led government who seem intent on carrying on the legacy of the previous FF led government, protecting the vested interests of bankers, big business and their friends at the top.

Sinn Féin is not afraid to take this Government on and not afraid to legislate or fight to protect workers’ rights. I would urge working people to remember this the next time they go to the ballot box.

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