jump to navigation

That new law on working hours… April 30, 2019

Posted by Tomboktu in Business, Collective Bargaining, Employment Rights, Labour relations, Trade Unions, Workers Rights.

Last week, we got two opposing views on whether the changes in the law on working hours are an improvement for workers. (The changes came into force in March.)

On Tuesday, Mandate’s communications officer, David Gibney, had an article on the Irish Broad Left for ‘yes’, and on Friday, two academics at the Kenny Business School in the University of Limerick, Juliet Mac Mahon and Tony Dundon, had an article in the Irish Times for ‘no’. (The article by MacMahon and Dundon does not refer to Gibney’s and the fact that their article was published a few days after his seems to be a coincidence rather than an explicit response to Gibney’s article.)

Labour law September 22, 2017

Posted by Tomboktu in Employment Rights, Labour relations.
add a comment

A while ago, in an e-mail conversation with a barrister acquaintance of mine, the question was asked about what the longest act in Irish law is. He did whatever barristers do with their legal databases and came back with two answers: the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 or the Companies Act 2014, depending on how you measured the length of an act. The main metrics he cited were the number of sections in the act and the number of pages. And, he added, you could get a different answer if you included the schedules in acts. The tax law has 1,104 sections and the companies one has 1,448 sections. A third possibility I would have suggested before he checked is the social welfare legislation — a quick check on the Internet tells me the current main piece of legislation is the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 — but it’s a minnow in comparison: 364 sections.

Of course, today none of these is a standalone act any more. Each of them has accrued deletions, insertions, and rewordings as amending legislation has been passed over the years. But each has a ‘core’ document that you need to start with you have reason to check something.

I was reminded of that fact when I saw the RTÉ headline about a bill on zero-hour contracts. The areas of tax, companies, and social welfare are each complicated systems, but despite the diversity of internal pieces — for instance: income tax, transactions on land, capital gains tax, farming and market gardening, profit sharing schemes, etc. — each constitutes enough of a whole, of parts that belong together, for our governments over the years to put the law on each of them into a single, albeit lengthy, act.

Not so that system which affects the daily lives of the bulk of people in the State: paid labour. It’s not that we don’t have labour laws — we do, but they’re scattered and piecemeal, with separate, standalone acts for each micro-issue: one act for part-time work, another act for fixed-term work, and yet another for working time; one basic act on the establishment of trade unions, and a different act governing how they exercise their roles in society and the economy. (The act that governs wages? Which aspect: payment of, national minimum, agricultural, for merchant seamen?)

There are plenty of laws on paid work. In fact, a schedule in the Workplace Relations Act lists 20 other acts as “Employment Enactments” (and a series of other acts that contain pieces within them that are regarded as part of the corpus of “employment enactments”).

There would be challenges in collating all of the provisions in the scatter of acts (and regulations implementing EU employment laws) into a single document. It would bring to the surface diverging concepts and applications. For example, there are at least four different provisions on victimisation or penalisation — and both terms are used, although the basic concept is the same — with details on the content that differ in a way that does not seem to be based on any underlying logic. But a more fundamental problem is that despite its heft, our employment law is not intended to be a creative or constructive system that defines and sets the boundaries on the key institution of paid labour for an employer. Rather, it is a hodge-podge of responses to problems that have not merely arisen with paid labour, but which have also then been named and recognised — with struggles and violence, as the early history of trade unions demonstrates. No, the problem with labour law is its starting assumption. Deep in the bowels of the philosophy underpinning employment law is a fiction that employment contracts are contracts between equals and that employment laws are needed only to regulate the bits that have ‘gone wrong’ (and have been proven to have gone wrong). Putting all of the sticking plasters for those ills in one act might reveal just how frail that underlying philosophy is.

Ireland breaches human rights laws on workers’ rights January 29, 2015

Posted by Tomboktu in Collective Bargaining, Council of Europe, Employment Rights, Human Rights, Ireland, Labour relations, Trade Unions, Uncategorized, Workers Rights.

Ireland fails to meet nearly half of its legal obligations on workers’ rights under European human rights law.

Legal conclusions (45-page PDF here) by the European Committee of Social Rights concerning workers’ rights were published by the European Committee last week. The  Committee assesses compliance with the Revised European Social Charter.

The findings show Ireland is not in conformity with the human rights requirements on workers’ rights in 10 out of the 22 provisions that Ireland has ratified. Ireland is in conformity with 11 of those provisions, and the government did not provide enough information for the legal situation on the remaining ratified provision on labour rights to be assessed.

The 22 individual provisions are spread across eight articles in the European Social Charter, which is the main sister instrument to the European Convention on Human Rights. The provisions that were examined govern standards in just conditions of work, fair remuneration, workers organising, collective bargaining, worker participation in determining and improving working conditions and working environment, dignity at work, protection of workers’ representatives in their workplaces, and information and consultation in collective redundancy procedures.

Ireland’s minimum wage rates were found to breach European human rights standards because people on the lower bands did not earn enough to have  decent standard of living, which is defined as half of the average net wage in the State.

A further illegality was found because the Payment of Wages Act does not place an absolute limit on the total amount of deductions from wages by an employer and because the Government failed to show that the act is applied in practice in a way that preserves workers’ means of subsistence. “Situations in which the portion of wages remaining after deductions may not be adequate to ensure the subsistence of workers and their dependants may consequently still exist”, the Committee found.

The lack of domestic laws requiring overtime work is paid at a higher rate than basic pay was also found to be a breach of the Charter. The Committee was told by the Government that overtime rates are negotiated at the level at which basic pay and conditions of employment are normally settled — meaning in an individual firm or across an industry or sector. No evidence was produced to show how this works in practice, despite the Government being asked to provide the information following a previous assessment of the legal situation in 2007.

Curiously, although the European Committee did refer to the Haddington Road Agreement for the public and civil service in assessing other aspects of the Charter, it did not mention that Haddington Road breached European human rights law on overtime because it required certain categories of worker to provide the first hour of overtime not only without a higher rate of pay, but without any pay. That part of the Haddington Road Agreement expired in 2014.

The European Committee identified three ways in which Irish law on sacking workers breaches human rights requirements. The notice period in the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act are inadequate. The Committee said that this illegality was identified as far back as 1973. It also said that the scope of the illegality on this point has been expanded since Ireland was last assessed because the law on minimum terms was extended to cover civil servants. A third breach was found concerning instant dismissal of a worker for misbehaviour. The European Committee found that the standard that is contained in Irish law is too weak, and that instant dismissal can be justified only in cases of “a serious offence” and not the lower threshold of “misconduct” set out in the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act

In examining the situation here on working time, the European Committee warned the government that contracts where workers must be available for work but are later regarded as resting if they were not actually given work are illegal under human rights law. It asked the government to give the Committee information on the rules that apply to on-call service when Ireland next reports on the right to just conditions of work. However, the Committee did have enough information to find that Ireland’s laws do not conform to the human rights standard on hours of work because it allows workers in the merchant shipping sector to work 72-hour weeks.

A separate breach was identified by the European Committee because there are inadequate safeguards in Ireland to prevent people working for more than twelve consecutive days without a rest period.

A number of Irish rules on trade unions were found to be illegal under the Revised European Social Charter. Although some forms of closed shops have been unconstitutional since the 1960s, the European Committee found that the right to freedom of association was not fully protected because pre-entry closed shops and post-entry closed shops when they apply to newly recruited employees are not definitively illegal.

Irish laws on the licensing of trade unions breach human rights law in a number of ways. The Unfair Dismissals Act is inadequate because does not protect workers from being sacked for trade union activity if the union does not have a negotiating license. Another breach is that under Irish law a trade union that does not have a license — and the union’s officials and members — can be sued by an employer, and an employer can sack all employees in an unlicensed union for taking part in a strike.

The ban on the garda staff associations such as the AGSI and GRA from joining Congress was also found to be a breach of human rights law, re-iterating a finding in 2014 in a case take by the AGSI (42-page PDF here). A number of other specific breaches of human rights law for gardaí from the AGSI case were also found to be still relevant in the new conclusions, including the complete ban on any Garda ever striking.

Although the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 applies to all workers, Ireland does not conform to European legal standards because the government did not show that workers exposed to occupational health risks are entitled to appropriate compensation measures such as reduced working hours or additional holidays.

The conclusions were published last week, some time after the work on drafting them and equivalents for 40 other countries had been completed.  In the intervening period, the legal findings of the European Committee for Social Rights were described as “non-binding” by the Minister for Defence in the Dáil. It will be interesting to see if they European Committee responds to that attack when it next publishes conclusions or a decision on a case from Ireland.

The Revised European Social Charter contains 31 articles and under the reporting procedure, the European Committee of Social Rights states’ compliance with approximately a quarter of the articles each year.

Although the 2014 conclusions on labour rights were published by the European Committee last week, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has not publicly responded to the findings.

Worker directors July 24, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Business, Ireland, Labour relations, Workers Rights.

One of the disdvantages of using Enlgish as our ‘lingua franca’ in Ireland is that we are not exposed often enough to ideas from outside the English-speaking world. A report published last week by TASC, Good for Business? Worker Participation on Boards (PDF here), is a case in point.

The existence of worker direstors in companies in Ireland — and the rest English-speaking world to which we so often look for policy examples — and the legislation on this issue are so poor that it can easily be forgotten that not only is it normal practice in many other European countries, but actually a legal requirement in some of our fellow EU member states. The poor situation in Ireland means that it is a difficult task to undertake a study of the role and effect of worker directors in Irish companies. The sample of companies is tiny and utterly unrepresentative: in the commercial sector, worker directors exist in only a handful of state-owned companies. (Worker directors also exist in a wider range of non-commerical public bodies, although that terminology is not always used to refer to them. Examples include the vocational education committees, the National Disability Authority, and the Legal Aid Board.)

It is worth setting out some of the legal requirements in those other EU countires. In Germany, depending on the size of the firm, either one-third or half the seats on the board must be worker representatives — worker directors or their nominees; in Sweden, a company with 25 employees must have worker directors; in Austrian PLCs regardless of the size of the firm, workers have a right to a third of the seats on the board. Across the EU 27 and Norway, 12 countries provide for worker directors of some form in private forms. The little-known directives on EU-level companies also provide for worker directors.

The TASC report presents a literature review and data drawn from a focus group with nine worker directors from six companies and thirteen interviews with other people: non-worker directors, company executives, and “independent experts”. We are not told what the basis of this last group’s expertise — or, importantly, the the view that they are independent — is.

In Ireland, we are a long way from the kind of values that are reflected in the 12 other EU countries. Two details from the TASC report show how much of a hill we have to climb.

The first detail is that the five recommendations in the report do not include anything would lead to an extension of the model to be extended outside the public sector. I would have thought that this is the kind of idea that a progressive think tank should be introducing into the debate in Ireland. And the report contains a reference that shows why ding that at this time would be opportune. In discussing the legal roles of comapny directors, TASC uses not the current legislation but propoals from a draft companies bill that is expected to be introduced next year. That bill will be a massive overhaul of the Companies Acts — the draft proposals come in at over 1000 pages. (The scale of what is comming doen the line for the TDs and Senators can be seen in the time the preparation of the bill has taken. The Company Law Reform Group has been working on this for over a decade.) TASC should be calling for that process to be used to strengthen industrial democracy in Ireland.

The second detail is that a majority of the the interviewees in the study — that is, the non-worker directors, the company executives and the “independent experts” — believe that worker directors should not sit on remuneration committees. That mind-set, which sees executives as being in a different market from others — so different that it often looks like they are on a different planet — is one of the key factors that has contributed to the obscene income inequalities we see in Ireland and the rest of the English-speaking world.

Garda body seeks trade union rights July 20, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Human Rights, Labour relations, Trade Unions.

[Cedar Lounge Revolution isn’t a news site, but it looks like we may be the first to report on a development that has been made public in recent days. I haven’t seen this reported in any news media, and I coudn’t find any reference to it in searches, including on the GRA, AGSI and EuroCOP websites.]

A legal compalint has been lodged against Ireland for its refusal to allow members of An Garda Síochána join a trade union.

The complaint has been brought under a human rights charter at the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe.

The European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP) lodged the legal challenge in June with the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), a parallel structure to the European Court of Human Rights. The legal challenge was made public by the ECSR on Wednesday.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 states that “a member of the Garda Síochána shall not be or become a member of any trade union”. It allows gardaí to form staff associations without full trade union status. The two main bodies established for that purpose are the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI)

The document initiating the legal challenge states that the staff associations do not have access to the Labour Court or the Labour Relations Commission. “The police associations are not allowed to join an umbrella organisation such as ICTU. This means that the police organisations are kept out of the overall negotiations that ICTU conduct on behalf of their members, such as those on salaries”, EuroCOP says.

The Irish law is alleged to breach three articles of the Revised European Social Charter: the right to organise, the right to bargain collectively, and the right to information and consultation.

The case is being taken by EuroCOP on behalf of the AGSI because complaints against a state must be taken by a European organisation registered with the Council of Europe.


Event: Alternative Economic Development Models March 5, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in A co-op bank, Community, Development, Economy, Labour relations.


April 23rd, UCD Quinn School of Business.

Dear colleagues and friends,

Please find attatched details of an exiciting collaborative event hosted by the following groups:

Equality Studies UCD
Meitheal Midwest
TradeMark Belfast
Kilbarrack CDP

The event aims to promote co-operatives and social/community enterprises as an alternative economic development model for Ireland.

In addition, the economic crisis and austerity measures are hitting poorer communities more than any other group and there is a need to develop alternative ways of creating employment in these communities.

This daylong seminar will be attended by individuals and groups from the community, voluntary and statutory fields. It is intended that the event will provide a space for critical discussion about alternative economic organising as well as building a network and demand for co-operatives and social/community enterprises in Ireland.

The minimum fee for the Forum is €10. Individuals and/or groups with more substantial means are free to donate a greater sum on the day of the event if they wish to contribute to covering costs. Please follow this link to book: http://www.eventbrite.ie/org/1932174201 Alternatively you can reply to praxisevent@gmail.com to reserve.

For detailed information on the event and speakers please follow these links:



To connect with PRAXIS on Facebook:



PRAXIS et al.

Help me, peoples: collective bargaining rights February 8, 2011

Posted by Tomboktu in Economics, Labour relations, Trade Unions, Workers Rights.

Somewhere recently I (think that I) read or heard that the Labour Party will make a law change to guarantee the right to collective bargaining or to union recognition part of any agreement they make for going into government. I cannot find anything on their website on this topic that is related to the current election campaign. (There is a speech Michael D Higgins made in December 2007 when they introduced a Private Members Bill to give effect to this, but that is well outside the scope of this general election.)

Does anybody here know if this is a policy they are due to announce during the campaign, or was it merely wishful thinking on my part?

Strike! November 1, 2010

Posted by Tomboktu in Culture, History, Human Rights, Labour relations, racism, Trade Unions, Workers Rights.
1 comment so far

Don’t miss STRIKE! – a play about the most dangerous shop workers in the world.

STRIKE! is a fictionalised account of the famous anti-apartheid shop strike on Henry Street in the 1980s. We are back after a sell out show in the Samuel Beckett for a week in May 2010 where it received a great reaction from audiences each night.

The play is running for three weeks – two weeks in the Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College from Tuesday 26 October to Saturday 6 November. Then we will run for 5 nights in the axis: Ballymun from Tuesday 9 to Saturday 13 November.

Written and directed by Tracy Ryan, STRIKE! uses visuals and music of the time to tell the story of a group of young people who went on strike to protest against apartheid and confronted the establishment, caused a state of emergency in South Africa and eventually saw the banning of South African produce in Ireland.

A clip of the show is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwhSKoAj0p0

More about STRIKE!

In Dublin in 1984, the economy was failing, unemployment was rife and 10 young women and one young man were about to change the world. In July a shop worker on Henry Street refused to sell South African fruit to a store customer and was suspended. Ten colleagues followed her out on strike; they thought it would last 2 weeks – it went on for nearly three years.

Come and see STRIKE!

Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College Dublin
Tuesday 26 October to Saturday 6 Nov. at 7.30 pm
Matinee on Saturday 29 and November 6 at 2.30 pm
Tickets €15.99; €11.99 concession; €9.99 matinee and for group rate of 10
Box office: Book online at www.tcd.ie/drama or by phone at 01 – 896 2461

axis: Ballymun
Tuesday 9 to Saturday 13 November at 8 pm
Tickets €14.99; €11.99 concession; €9.99 for group rate of 10
Box office: Book online at www.axis-ballymun.ie or by phone at 01 – 883 2100

IMPACT Channel October 27, 2009

Posted by Tomboktu in Education, Health, Internet, Ireland, Irish Politics, Justice, Labour relations, Social Policy, Society, Trade Unions, Uncategorized, Unions.

I thought regulars (and, indeed, visitors) in the Cedar Lounge Revolution might be interested in the IMPACT channel at Youtube.

At the moment it contains four films: Labels, The Nerve, They’re Everywhere and Monster.

The first two are straightforward.

Which of your wasteful public services would you cut?:

A concerned mother shares her son’s experience with his public servant speech therapist:

The second two engage in parody.

News ‘report’ on public servants:

A backroom Irish public servant comes clean:

Reality TV casts of the World Unite! June 4, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in Labour relations, Television Shows.

French workers are famous throughout the world for their determined assertion and defence of their rights. A large part of the Francopohbia seen in the British press at regular intervals is due to hostility to this very fact. So it is with particular glee that I read today (in one of Murdoch’s papers) that people who appear on French reality TV have won employment rights.

Maître Damien Celice, a lawyer for TF1, had warned the supreme court during the hearing that “there would be no more reality TV in France” if the contestants were given work contracts.

With Big Brother about to kick off on Channel 4 for its tenth season, I think I might move to France.

%d bloggers like this: