28 June 2007 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

Ireland opts out of workers’ rights clause in EU charter

It has emerged this week that both Ireland and Poland have sought an “opt-out” clause in the EU charter of fundamental rights. The document contains a varied number of fundamental rights including the right to life, the presumption of innocence and the right to engage in collective bargaining and strike action. The “reform treaty” would be legally binding under EU law.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said that, “We are satisfied with the protections against intrusion into domestic law that we secured in the charter itself.”
It is understood that the charter of fundamental rights will not be signed up to by Ireland, Poland and Britain through an optional protocol that was originally negotiated by Britain. Tony Blair originally said of the protocol’s purpose that it did not create any justifiable rights applicable in Britain except insofar as Britain had already provided for in their domestic law.
Politicians opposed to the EU treaty have said that it could have the possibility of extending workers’ rights as it contains an explicit right to strike. Despite this provision, it is unlikely that any plaintiff could legally depend on this right unless the member state laid down legislation specifically in this area.
General Secretary of the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) Blair Horan, has stated however, that he believes that these rights “may develop over time, given the fluid nature of EU law”.
Horan went on to say, “In my view the trade union movement in Ireland would never support a treaty with an opt-out which would be doomed to failure in a referendum.”
The CPSU will support that position at the ICTU conference in Bundoran.


Labour Court give OK to Abbey Theatre ID system

The Labour Court have given the OK to a “biometric time and attendance” procedure which requires employees to place their fingertip on a pad and enter a pin number in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
Four members of BATU (Building and Allied Trades Union) had refused to use the mechanism which has not been fully rolled out yet. When the dispute could not be resolved it was referred to the Labour Court who declared it part of “normal ongoing change” and recommended that BATU members who are employed by the Abbey comply with the change.
BATU had concerns that the monitoring mechanism would “impinge on the fundamental rights of each worker using the system as it may store their fingerprint.”
The Abbey has said that there will be no infringement as copies of fingerprints are not stored.


Postal workers to strike in North

Postal workers across the North are set to strike on Friday, 29 June. Up to 130,000 members of the Communication Workers’ Union will walk out during the industrial action which will take place across the North as well as areas in Britain.
The dispute is centred around pay and conditions and there will be further strikes in July unless Royal Mail resolve the dispute.
The CWU has rejected a 2.5% pay offer and warned that the Royal Mail’s modernisation plans would lead to a cut in postal services and the loss of 40,000 jobs. Dave Ward, the union’s deputy general secretary, accused the Royal Mail of “deliberately misleading” the public by claiming that the union was demanding a 27% pay rise and opposing modernisation. We’ve tried our hardest to reach a negotiated settlement with the company, but the truth is, again, that Royal Mail are refusing to negotiate whatsoever on reaching a settlement before strike action takes place,” Mr Ward said.
Interestingly, 29 June will also see the result of the CWU ballot of Eircom workers on industrial action.

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