The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2018 (the Bill) has moved a step closer to enactment. It was recently before the Dáil and has now been referred to the third stage (Committee stage) of the legislative process. The Bill proposes that members of An Garda Síochána will have access to the Workplace Relations Commission (the WRC) and the Labour Court for the purpose of resolving industrial disputes.
The Bill was introduced after a Garda dispute in 2016 which could have resulted in strike action. It was resolved at the Labour Court as a result, in part, to the Government committing to provide Garda members with access to the WRC and the Labour Court. This was in contrast to the prior position where members of the Garda were unable to take grievances to the WRC or the Labour Court, could not be directly involved in public service pay negotiations, and their representative bodies could not be full trade unions.
What's in the Bill?
The Bill's explanatory memorandum usefully summarises that its purpose is to give members of An Garda Síochána the opportunity to ‘avail of the broad suite of services including mediation, conciliation and adjudication, of the WRC and ultimately the services of the Labour Court in the event of industrial relations disputes involving members arising’. This will be achieved by amending the Industrial Relations Act 1990 with expanded definitions in relation to industrial relations legislation to allow for the inclusion of members of An Garda Síochána. Interestingly, the Summary of Regulatory Impact Analysis states that having such legislation in place should mitigate against the risk of industrial relations issues escalating which in turn shall secure safety and security within Ireland.
Criticism of the proposals
The Garda Representative Association have criticised the Bill indicating that the proposals do not go far enough as it does not include a right to strike. This is notable in light of the case which the European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP) brought against Ireland on the basis of the European Social Charter (the Charter), a Council of Europe Treaty relating to social and economic rights. That case held by a narrow margin of 6 votes to 5, that Ireland is not in compliance with Article 6.4 of the Charter as a result of its prohibition on the right of members of the police to strike.
Whilst there is no doubt that members of An Garda Síochána will be keen for the Bill to proceed to enactment, the issue of whether strike action is prohibited may result in a law which the police force considers inadequate for the protection of their rights in industrial disputes.
We will provide a further update as the Bill progresses.