Be it DCU or Ryanair, people must be represented by their union of choice

According to Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) “Everyone has … the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of interests ... No restrictions shall be placed on these rights other than such as are prescribed by laws and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety.”


Workers in Ryanair can testify the extremes to which some employers will go to prevent employees exercising this right and to deny them the right to join their union of choice.


Currently in Dublin City University (DCU) hundreds of members of IFUT have reason to pay close attention to the sentiments of Article 11 of ECHR - and how its intent to ensure collective bargaining rights can be frustrated.


It is now just two years since the formal incorporation of St Patrick’s College Drumcondra and other colleges into DCU on September 30th 2016, a process which took four years to complete.


Welcoming the Agreement at the time, DCU President, Prof Brian MacCraith, acknowledged the “significant contributions and hard work from literally hundreds of individuals … and to assure you all of a fulfilling and exciting future in the university."


Among those who made this new DCU possible were hundreds of IFUT members in the colleges being incorporated.


One of the tidying up issues to be resolved was the transfer of IFUT’s collective bargaining rights to the new DCU.  An interim agreement signed by IFUT with other unions included a July 31st 2017 deadline for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to process the issue.


Speaking just after the IFUT conference this year (May 18th), on the theme of ‘Collective Bargaining Future Strategy’ ICTU President, Patricia King said that “Trade Union policy should, indisputably be, that all workers should be afforded the right to collectively bargain with their employer and be represented by their Union of choice.”


Yet 14 months past the ICTU deadline, IFUT and hundreds of our members remain officially ‘locked-out’ of collective bargaining rights.


This issue has been raised at length by IFUT through all relevant avenues both before and after the July 2017 deadline, without success.


ICTU had twice issued proposals to resolve the matter, both recognising IFUT’s entitlement to collective bargaining rights, but these ran into sand.


SIPTU, uniquely among the four unions involved in the DCU incorporation, had declared that none of the other unions could continue with collective bargaining rights post incorporation, based on an antiquated agreement dating back to when DCU was NIHE Dublin.  This is all the more incongruous, given that IFUT and SIPTU co-exist and work positively together on a range of educational issues in a number of other universities.


It is imperative that this situation is quickly resolved, as the effective denial of collective bargaining rights for IFUT members in DCU can no longer be tolerated.  There is an obligation on DCU to adhere to the principles repeatedly stressed in the lead-up to incorporation.


All trade union members must be provided with the parity of esteem which was always the underlying, fundamental basis of incorporation and which existed on the other campuses prior to the establishment of new DCU.


If, despite all the commitments freely and explicitly given by DCU to IFUT members, the university does not afford equality of rights with other employees then, in accordance with explicit mandates given to us by successive Annual Delegate Conferences, IFUT will assert these rights using all means at our disposal. 


Last May’s unanimous decision at IFUT Conference could not have been clearer:  “to immediately notify DCU Management of the conclusion of the ICTU Disputes Committee Appeal Process and thus the termination of the Interim Agreement.”


The time for fudging by DCU management is past.  DCU should grant collective bargaining rights to IFUT without further delay.  In the meantime IFUT members will not adhere to or abide by any measures or proposals which have been, or may in future, be raised or negotiated without their involvement or consultation.