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Board-level Representation

Employee representatives in Ireland’s single-tier boards are only found in the state-owned sector, where they normally account for a third of the total.

There is no statutory requirement for board level representation in the private sector – Ireland has a single-tier board system. Some parts of the public sector are, however, covered by legislation that gives employee representatives a right to seats on the board of state-owned enterprises and agencies. The representatives are normally known as worker directors. As well as public bodies, such the Courts Service, there are a number of state-owned businesses with employee representatives at board level. They include: the national postal service, An Post; Dublin airport, DAA; the national transport group, CIE; the peat processing company Bord na Móna; the Electricity Supply Board; Dublin Port; the gas and water company, ervia; the Shannon Group (including Shannon airport); and the forestry company, Coíllte.


In the larger companies, An Post, DAA, CIE, Bord na Móna and the ESB covered by legislation passed in 1977 and 1988, employee representatives have a third of the seats on the board (usually four out of a board of 12 directors who also include the chief executive, although An Post has five out of 13). Candidates are nominated by the unions, who have sole nominating rights, but elected by the whole workforce. The relevant minister then appoints the successful candidates. Individuals serve for four years. [1]


In other companies, including Coíllte, the Shannon Group, ervia and Dublin Port, where the legal basis for employee board-level representation is different, there are only one or two worker directors.


The extent of employee representation at board level has to some effect been affected by the privatisation of  previously state-owned companies, of which the best example is Aer Lingus, the former state-owned airline. This began to be privatised in 2006 , and is now part of the International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways and Iberia. However, important companies remain in state hands and have retained employee representation at board level.


[1] Board-level employee representatives – impact and future by Kevin P O’Kelly, NERI Labour Market Conference, May 2017 https://www.nerinstitute.net/download/pdf/20170519135936.pdf (Accessed 16.08.2019)

L. Fulton (2021) National Industrial Relations, an update (2019-2021). Labour Research Department and ETUI (online publication). Online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.