Workers must have right to negotiate collectively through union of their choice
February 4th: Unite Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock and Mandate General Secretary John Douglas today said that recent redundancy cases in retail outlet Forever 21 (part of a US multinational retail chain) and AMT Sybex (a subsidiary of outsourcing giant Capita) highlighted deficiencies in Ireland’s collective bargaining provision. The union leaders called for legislation to be introduced vindicating the right of workers to negotiate collectively with their employer through a union of their choice.
John Douglas, whose union Mandate represents workers in Forever 21, accused the company of refusing to engage collectively with the workers’ chosen union to negotiate redundancy packages following the decision to close the retail giant’s only Irish store:
“Losing your job is one of the most traumatic experiences a worker can go through. It’s at difficult times like this that workers need the support of their trade union and their right to be represented by that trade union on a collective basis. Yet, in Ireland, multinational companies like Forever 21 refuse to collectively engage with their 80 Irish workers adding more stress to an already upsetting experience,” said Mr Douglas. He added, “This needs to change. Irish workers deserve and are entitled to the rights afforded to millions of other workers across Europe – collective bargaining.”
Unite represents workers in AMT-Sybex, a wholly-owned subsidiary of outsourcing giant Capita which has nearly €140 million worth of departmental contracts. Last year six Unite members were made redundant; Capita not only refused to engage collectively with the workers through Unite, but also refused to implement a Labour Court recommendation for enhanced redundancy terms, describing the recommendation as ‘inappropriate’. The company also implied that the workers’ decision to be represented by Unite was a factor in the dismissal of their appeal against redundancy.
Jackie Pollock said today that the Capita and Forever 21 cases illustrate what he termed “the glaring gaps” in Ireland’s collective bargaining provisions:
“While the 2015 Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act was a welcome step forward, it did not provide for collective bargaining. Instead, it provided mechanisms for certain groups of workers whose employers refuse to negotiate collectively with a body of the workers’ choice. We still need fit-for-purpose collective bargaining legislation focussed on the rights of workers – rather than the rights of employers. Employees must be able to freely choose the body through which they wish to negotiate”, the Unite Regional Secretary said.
John Douglas added: “The Forever 21 and Capita cases are just two recent examples showing how workers have been failed by Ireland’s lack of proper collective bargaining provision. The time has come to redress the balance in favour of working people and their democratic right to choose how they will be represented in the workplace”.