HomeBusinessEmployment Law for EmployersTrade Unions and Trade Union Disputes

Trade Unions and Trade Union Disputes

There is a wide range of trade unions across Ireland, representing the interests of members, including the:

  • Teachers’ Union of Ireland
  • Energy Services Union
  • Independent Workers Union of Ireland
  • Financial Services Union
  • Communication Workers Union (Ireland)
  • Irish Taxi Council
  • Irish Postal Union
  • Prison Officers’ Association (Ireland)

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) acts as an umbrella organisation to which all trade unions in Ireland are affiliated – there are currently 55, representing over 600,000 members.

How are industrial relations disputes handled in Ireland?

The system of industrial relations is based on a voluntary approach, including collective bargaining (see below).  The State plays a role in setting up institutions which facilitate collective bargaining (including the Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court). The principle adjudicator for industrial relations disputes in Ireland is the Labour Court.

What is conciliation?

The Workplace Relations Commission’s (WRC) Conciliation Service provides a voluntary forum for industrial dispute resolution.  The model utilises impartial third-party Industrial Relations Officers of the Commission who chair ‘conciliation conferences’.  Any agreements made between an employer and the trade union body representing employees is achieved by consensus – i.e. no decision is imposed by the third-party.  Conciliation is deliberately informal and non-legal.

What is collective bargaining?

All employees have statutory employment rights, and trade unions protect these through negotiation with employers – referred to as collective bargaining.  For example, the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, defines the statutory rights of employees in relation to rest, maximum working time and holidays.  Under this Act, the maximum average working week in Ireland is 48 hours, and annual leave entitlement is 4 weeks each year.  Trade unions may seek to intervene on behalf of their members if an employer is exceeding these statutory rights.

Collective bargaining, as defined by the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 refers to voluntary negotiations between an employer and a trade union of workers, which seek to find agreement on working conditions.  Underpinning such negotiations and disputes is a range of legislation including:

  • 1937 Constitution (Bunreacht na hEireann)
  • Trade Union Acts 1871 to 1990
  • Industrial Relations Act 1990 – 2015
  • Unfair Dismissals Acts 1997 to 2007

Lavelle Partners’ employment law Solicitors have vast experience of assisting employers in relation to trade union matters, including disputes.  We have worked with many of the main trade unions in Ireland, and understand how to swiftly find common ground, to bring any dispute to a swift and amicable conclusion.

How Lavelle Partners can assist you in relation to trade union matters

  • Our team of employment law Solicitors, headed by Senior Partner, Marc Fitzgibbon, has been assisting employers for over 30 years in relation to trade union matters, and as a result, has developed a strong and enviable reputation nationally for achieving excellence in this area of law.
  • Marc is a former member of the Law Society of Ireland’s Employment & Equality Law Committee and European Employment Lawyers Association.
  • We understand the need to ensure trade union disputes are handled in full accordance with employment legislation and best practice, thereby protecting your business or organisation from the threat of a claim or reputational damage.
  • Our Solicitors will work alongside your in-house or external HR team, ensuring that trade union disputes are handled efficiently, with the minimum of demands on your resources

Our partnership with Talbot Pierce

Lavelle Partners work with Talbot Pierce to provide a seamless service in respect of Human Resource Management.  Talbot Pierce are a team of specialist HR professionals who work with us on a range of matters including advice on and delivery of conflict/dispute resolution solutions, best-practice HR strategies, policies and procedures.

For further information on the law relating to trade union matters in Ireland, please contact Lavelle Partners in confidence on (01) 644 5800.

Please get in touch with one of our specialists