The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has welcomed the Government’s decision to appeal a High Court ruling that effectively abolished official minimum wage levels in sectors like construction.
Last month the court said legal provisions that established sectoral wage agreements were unconstitutional. Legally enforceable sectoral employment orders (SEOs) have been rendered invalid by the ruling.
The Government has now agreed to appeal the ruling, which ICTU described as “the correct decision.”
Congress general secretary Patricia King said there were compelling reasons to appeal the judgment.
“Not to do so would have had serious implications for workers’ rights over a broader field of current industrial relations legislation. If this judgment stands, it will impact on the legislative process over a wide field and not just in relation to employment," she said.
The High Court’s ruling could affect lower paid employees by wiping out sectoral minimum rates and conditions negotiated between employers and unions.
Fórsa general secretary and vice-president of Congress Kevin Callinan said the ruling had potential implications for all workers, including public servants, whose pay and conditions are shaped by trends in the wider economy.
Kevin is chairing a Congress leadership meeting next week to look at constitutional, legislative and European provisions that could underpin workers’ rights and collective bargaining.
“This is an issue of pressing concern for all workers and unions. The legislation itself is relatively new, and was a welcome milestone in union efforts to have collective bargaining recognised in law,” he said.
He said the sectoral agreements have helped to secure better terms for workers in many sectors.
“As the country grapples with the devastating economic effect of the Covid-19 crisis, the High Court’s decision removes protections for these workers, upending the terms of agreements negotiated in good faith. If agreed terms are allowed to unravel, it makes all workers vulnerable, so the Government is doing the right thing by appealing the Court’s decision.
“This is just one of the many challenges the Government must take on in the aftermath of Covid-19 as it looks at how to rebuild the economy. There is also the pressing need for jobs investment, and a need to do more to bolster workers’ rights, the living wage and also on collective bargaining.
"The programme for government is largely silent on these issues, which remain priorities for Fórsa and other unions. They will feature strongly in any future social dialogue discussions,” he said.
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