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Lock Out commemoration without law reform 'a hypocritical charade'

6 November 2013

The union has called for immediate publication of government proposals for legislation guaranteeing workers the right to collective representation and bargaining.

The union is also calling for the appointment of a minister for labour affairs of cabinet rank in order to give greater priority to the rights of workers.

The NUJ's Irish biennial delegate conference (BDC) takes place in Croke Park on Saturday 9 November. In his report to the conference, Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, says the official commemoration of the 1913 Lock Out will be remembered "a hypocritical charade" if the government commitment to publish legislation on collective bargaining is not honoured by the end of this year.

The Irish secretary says the inadequate protection for workers and the absence of the legal right to collective representation is a scandal which cannot be ignored.

While demanding legislation on collective bargaining, the union is also demanding action to end the use of competition law, which prevents trade unions collectively representing freelance workers. The Competition Authority regards freelance workers as self-employed entities and has taken action against unions representing freelance workers, regarding wage negotiations for freelance workers as price fixing.

The NUJ and SIPTU, through the ICTU, are preparing a complaint to the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation on the denial of the right to representation.

The report highlights the failure of successive governments to honour commitments to bring about legislative change to protect freelance workers.

In the report, Séamus Dooley says:

"We consider the failure to implement the solemn commitments regarding the right of freelance workers to collective representation through amendment of Competition Law as a betrayal. It is ironic that the state should celebrate the contribution of Larkin, who organised self-employed workers, but force unions to seek relief through the ILO after more than a decade of broken promises,"

The last national agreement, Towards 2016, contains a specific commitment to reform of competition law which still has not been honoured.

The union is also calling for the establishment of a minister for labour affairs of cabinet rank as a means of ensuring that employment rights are given greater priority, a call first made by the NUJ in 2007.

The restructuring of employment rights bodies highlights the need for a properly resourced department which would be focussed on labour affairs.

The report says:

"Workers’ rights are not expendable and we can no longer tolerate the situation where the imperative of economic growth is seen as the sole priority at the cabinet table."

The NUJ conference will consider two motions dealing with JobBridge and, in his report, Séamus Dooley calls on the government to abandon the scheme:

“Over the past 12 months we have noted, with alarm, the growth in JobBridge programmes in the media sector. We welcome the recent determination in the case of one regional newspaper when it was decided that the placement of a photographer was deemed a breach of JobBridge regulations because the scheme was clearly being inappropriately used to fill a gap. It is unfortunate that it took the courage and determination of an individual to blow the whistle on this practice.
"It would be dishonest to pretend that this was an isolated example. There is clear evidence that JobBridge is being used by a range of media organisations as a source of free labour.
"The NUJ has co-operated with a wide range of job placement schemes, internships and work experience programmes but we regard JobBridge as pernicious and at this stage incapable of redemption. The scheme is the subject of a number of motions at BDC 2013 and it is proposed to deal with our experience, direct and indirect, at conference."

Read the full report and information about BDC 2013 in the NUJ Ireland section of the website (members only).

Tags: , collective bargaining, rights, dublin lock-out, freelance, government ireland, siptu, ictu, irish biennial delegate conference