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Irish unions join forces to demand major workers’ rights reforms

SOME of Ireland’s largest trade unions joined forces today to demand major reforms of workers’ rights in the country.

Launching the Respect at Work campaign, Siptu, the Financial Services Union, Mandate Trade Union and the Communication Workers Union, said all the main political parties should support greater protections for employees at work.

The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) is also supporting the initiative.

Irish unions say that surveys consistently show that young workers see trade unions as “essential” in today’s workplaces to make sure that everyone gets treated fairly and with respect. 

ISSU national Student Voice organiser Maeve Richardson said: “Recent University College Dublin research showed that 67 per cent of people aged between 16 and 24 years are positively disposed to trade unions. 

“This underscores a significant and growing positive shift in attitudes towards trade unions in Ireland. This is a welcome breakthrough that offers real hope for the future.”

The unions are demanding a right to organise and legal protections from discrimination and dismissal while doing so.

Siptu deputy general secretary Ethel Buckley said that the legal protections would make sure “employee representatives and union shop stewards have the protections they need while representing the interests of their colleagues.”

The campaign is timed to coincide with the required transposition of a European Union directive on minimum wages and collective bargaining, which the Irish government must write into law by November of this year.

The directive requires countries where less than 80 per cent of workers are covered by collective agreements to introduce new measures to promote collective bargaining between unions and employers.

Speaking at the campaign launch Ms Buckley said: “We are calling for legislative change and the strongest possible transposition of this directive in workers’ best interests, not a watered-down version that renders it meaningless.”

About 34 per cent of workers in Ireland currently have their wages and conditions bargained collectively by trade unions.

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