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 Ireland

Key Facts

Population4,582,769
Collective Bargaining Coverage 44%
Proportion of Employees in Unions 31%
Principal Level of Collective Bargaining

Company

Workplace Representation

union – but other structures are possible and since 2006 these can be triggered by employees

Board-level Representation

yes: state-owned companies

Company Board Structure

monistic

Sources: see individual country sections; where a range of figures has been quoted, the lower number has been taken

Trade Unions

Just under a quarter of employees in Ireland are union members. There is only one union confederation, the ICTU, but individual unions, in particular the larger ones, have considerable power and influence.

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Collective Bargaining

A series of National Partnership Agreements provided a non-binding framework for pay bargaining from 1987 to 2009. However, this system collapsed as a result of the economic crisis, and the country returned to company level bargaining in the private sector with a relatively low level of coverage, although the public sector continues to be covered by national bargaining.  

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Workplace Representation

There is no statutory system for permanent employee representation in Ireland. Those who work in unionised workplaces have representation though the union. New procedures have been introduced as a result of the EU directive on information and consultation, but they have not made much difference.

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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.

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European-level Representation

With no universal statutory structure of employee representation, Irish members on European bodies are normally elected by the workforce as a whole in a special ballot. However, the situation is different for some of the structures of the European Company.

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Health and Safety Representation

Safety representatives, chosen by the employees, are the main channel for representing employees in the area of health and safety in Ireland, and it is up to the employees at the workplace to decide how their representatives should be chosen. It is also possible to set up joint employer/employee safety committees, provided the employer agrees.

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Financial Participation

The measures taken by the Irish government in the 1990s to develop and improve the statutory and fiscal regulations governing employee financial participation initially led to an increase in the number of profit-sharing and share ownership schemes, though the number later dropped. The current incidence of profit-sharing schemes in private-sector companies with 10 or more employees is currently 11% (according to the “European Company Survey”). The same survey shows that employee share ownership schemes exist in ca. 6% of Irish companies.

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