The CPI recognises that the state is not an “honest broker” in trade disputes: it represents the interests of the employers. Workers in Ireland are subjected to the most vicious anti-union legislation in Europe. The working class in the six counties have suffered from trade union rights being quashed by successive British government, be they Conservative or Labour. In the twenty-six counties, the 1990 Industrial Relations Act was the crowning jewel of the state’s union-busting strategy. The act bans solidarity strikes, places onerous requirements for conducting ballots on trade unions, and makes it easy for employers to sue trade unions for even minor breaches of the law.
The CPI is calling for the trade union movement to learn from the failures of social partnership and to be wary of promises of legislative tinkering from governments. A repeal of the Industrial Relations Act (1990) and the British Trade Union Act (2016) would enable trade unions to pursue an offensive industrial strategy to advance workers’ interests more effectively. We must reclaim the right to strike without fear of facing criminal or civil charges in court.
In January 2020, the Trade Union Left Forum, in which the CPI is involved, launched its Workers’ Rights Campaign, which called for a repeal of the Industrial Relations Act and the equivalent anti-union legislation in the six counties, to be replaced by a fair employment act, guaranteeing the right of access for union officials and the right of workers to have their trade union recognised by their employer. Several of the largest trade unions in Ireland have already passed motions at their delegate conferences to call for the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act and other pieces of anti-union legislation across both jurisdictions.