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Industrial Relations in Ireland – Strike Notice

There has been much recent media attention for LUAS workers with strike action and conciliation talks commencing in the WRC. Although a strike within the transport system can be a major inconvenience, many employers may at some point be issued with notice at some stage or another during their careers. This process can be stressful for all involved and it is important that employers know what the correct procedures are if they are ever issued with strike notice. The Industrial Relations Act, 1990 includes the legislation pertaining to strike action however, for the purposes of this article we will look at section 11 and section 14 of the act.

Strikes & Picketing

Section 11 of the Act, deals with industrial action such as strikes and picketing. It sets out a number of conditions;

  • It shall be lawful to attend at a place where their employer works or carries on business, if they so attend merely for the purpose of peacefully obtaining or communicating information or of peacefully persuading any person to work or abstain from working.
  • It shall be lawful to attend at a place where an employer who is not a party to the trade dispute works or carries on business if, but only if, it is reasonable for those who are so attending to believe  that the employer has directly assisted their employer for the purpose of frustrating the strike or other industrial action,
  • For the avoidance of doubt any action taken by an employer in the health services to maintain life-preserving services during a strike or other industrial action shall not constitute assistance
  • It shall be lawful for a trade union official to accompany any member of his union whom he represents.

Secret Ballots

There is a requirement for Trade Unions to conduct secret ballots of their members prior to engaging in industrial action.  Section 14 of the act lays down the good practice procedures that should be followed for a Secret Ballot.

  • All members of a union who it is reasonable to believe will be called upon to take industrial action must be entitled to vote
  • the union must take reasonable steps to ensure that all members can vote without interference or constraint, and members are given a fair opportunity to vote.
  • voters should be  asked if they are prepared to take part in a strike or action short of a strike, whichever is relevant
  • the majority must answer yes to the question, and this question cannot cover both types of action, it must be specific.

As soon as practicable after the conduct of a secret ballot the trade union shall take reasonable steps to make known to its members entitled to vote in the ballot:

  1.  the number of ballot papers issued,
  2.  the number of votes cast,
  3.  the number of votes in favour of the proposal,
  4.  the number of votes against the proposal, and
  5.  the number of spoilt votes.

In order for a strike to be legal, the above must be satisfied. If a ballot was not fair an employer can seek to get a High Court injunction or complain to the Registrar of Friendly Societies.

It is important for employers to understand that being a member of a trade union is a constitutional right that an employee can avail of, however just as you have a right to associate with a trade union you also have a right disassociate with a trade  union. Being a member of a trade union is heavily protected by the unfair dismissals act and can amount to automatic unfair dismissal if an employee can prove that they were dismissed because of their trade union membership.

Below are some helpful tips in relation to strike action;

  • Employees are not entitled to be paid during industrial action
  • Any time spent on industrial action is deemed non-reckonable for the purposes of calculating redundancy pay
  • Employees will have continuous service during any periods of industrial action.
  • An employee does not need to have 12 months’ service to take a claim of unfair dismissal if the dismissal is in relation to their membership or trade union activities.
  • An employee will not be entitled to public holiday pay where absent by reason of strike action immediately prior to the holiday
  • Employees do not accrue annual leave while on a strike.

If you have questions any relating to any of the above you can contact the advice line on 01 886 0350.

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