Representation, bargaining and the law: Where next for the unions?
Doherty, Michael (2009) Representation, bargaining and the law: Where next for the unions? Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, 60 (4). pp. 383-401. ISSN 0029-3105
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This article examines the state of the law relating to trade union rights to negotiate on behalf of members employed in Irish firms where the employer refuses to recognise the union(s) in question. The article examines the operation of the Industrial Relations Amendment Acts 2001-2004, which aimed to chart a course between the traditional, Anglo-Saxon voluntary bargaining model and the statutory bargaining model (introduced in the UK in 1999).
An empirical approach is used, involving a detailed examination of the Labour Court’s day-to-day operation of the legislation from its introduction in 2001 until the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision in Ryanair v the Labour Court in 2007.
The position in Ireland remains unique in the Western world in that the law does not provide any protection for collective bargaining rights; the Acts, therefore, still represent the only legally binding mechanism for members in non-union workplaces to have their union represent their interests (albeit in circumscribed areas). The research thus sought to look at the perceived effectiveness of the legislation from the point of view of the various employment relations stakeholders. Of note to employment relations commentators in Ireland, but also in other Anglo-Saxon employment relations regimes with voluntarist traditions, is the fact that the Acts represented an innovative attempt to steer a course between legally mandated collective bargaining and voluntarism.
As such, the research considered whether the Acts can, despite the pessimism of many commentators, still play a role in Irish IR and, perhaps, provide a “model” for other Anglo-Saxon industrial relations regimes.
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