HRM40640 Employment Relations in Ireland UCD Assignment Example
This module will examine the central issues around employment relations in Ireland. It explores how employers approach trade unions and collective bargaining, as well as the conduct of ER within multinational companies in Ireland. Furthermore, the module will also look at trade unions, pay determination, and ER developments in the public sector.
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Assignment Activity 1: Understand the current situation and recent trends in the areas examined
Employment Relations in Ireland are currently in a state of flux. A number of significant changes have taken place in the past few years, including a shift from collective bargaining to individual contracts, a decrease in union membership, and an increase in precarious work. These changes have led to increased tension between employers and employees, with numerous disputes arising over issues such as pay and working conditions.
The trend towards individual contracts has been particularly controversial. Under these contracts, employees are typically offered lower pay and fewer benefits than under traditional collective agreements. As a result, many workers feel that they are not being treated fairly, and there has been an increase in industrial action taken by unions in order to protect their members’ rights.
However, there are also some positive developments in the area of employment relations. For example, the Supreme Court ruled that employees had a constitutional right to access information held by employers on them, including potential disciplinary proceedings being brought against them. This is seen as benefiting both workers and unions.
Precarious work has become a major issue in recent years, with an estimated one-third of all workers in Ireland now employed in precarious positions. This includes temporary contracts, part-time work, and self-employment. The growth of precarious work has had a number of negative consequences, including increased job insecurity and a decrease in worker rights.
Assignment Activity 2: Explain what trade unions are and what role they play in employment relations
Trade unions form a key part of the employment relations landscape. In Ireland, there is a special relationship between employers and employees which is known as “collective bargaining by representation”. Under this system, whichever side – employee or employer – has more than 50% of workers covered by a collective agreement is entitled to represent all employees under that agreement.
If an employer does not have a union representing its workforce, the trade unions will approach the company and discuss the possibility of setting up a branch within it. If there is already a branch in place, then that existing branch can represent all workers on that site. The first step in setting up a branch within an employer is to form a “representation committee” and the trade unions will use this as a way of gauging interest amongst workers. If there are enough people willing to join the union then it can set up a formal branch. There need to be at least 20 members for this, although some unions will allow less.
Once a branch is in place, it can then begin negotiating on behalf of its members. The main role of the trade unions is to promote their interests in the workplace through collective bargaining. This involves seeking improvements to pay and working conditions, both for members and non-members alike. For example, if there are two workers in different parts of the country doing the same job, but one is paid more than the other due to an agreement in the branch of their union, the second worker would also benefit.
Trade unions are also involved in industrial action, which can include strikes and work-to-rules. These industrial actions are only taken as a last resort when negotiations on behalf of members reach an impasse.
Industrial relations are more peaceful in countries with strong trade union traditions, such as the Scandinavian countries and Germany. Trade unions perform a number of functions to ensure that workers’ rights are respected, including offering advice on contract law, representing employees in discipline hearings, using social media to raise awareness of employment issues, and providing training for employers.
Assignment Activity 3: Explain what a non-standard form of employment is and why it has become more pervasive
Non-standard forms of employment are positions that do not have the standard employee/employer relationship which is typical in most other jobs. In many cases, this means employees have to accept insecure contracts which can last from a few weeks to a few years.
There are a number of reasons why non-standard employment has become more pervasive in recent years. One reason is the increased use of technology, which has resulted in the displacement of many workers. For example, self-employment has become more common as a way for companies to avoid having to pay benefits and pensions.
Another reason is the global financial crisis, which led to a number of companies going bankrupt and forced many workers into accepting precarious contracts. The growth of the “gig economy” has also played a role, with platforms like Uber and Deliveroo using self-employment as a way to avoid having to provide benefits and protections for their workers.
Trade unions have responded to the growth of non-standard employment by campaigning for better rights for workers in these positions. This includes lobbying governments to introduce new laws that would protect employees and working with employers to try and get them to offer more secure contracts. Trade unions have also been using social media to raise awareness of the issue, and have been providing training for workers on how to negotiate better contracts.
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Assignment Activity 4: Assess developments in ER in Ireland in a comparative context
The development of ER in Ireland has been fairly limited, compared to other countries. This is largely due to the fact that trade unions are much weaker in Ireland than in most other European countries. As a result, workers have not been as effective in getting their voices heard.
There have been some recent developments, however, with the introduction of the National Minimum Wage and the new Protection of Employees (Fixed-term Work) Act. The latter gives workers the right to a contract for a minimum period of 12 months unless there is a clear business reason for not offering one. It also entitles workers to receive notice of termination from their employer at least one week in advance unless there is a valid reason for shorter notice.
While these are positive steps, much more needs to be done to protect workers in Ireland. For example, there is still no statutory right to paid holidays or sick leave, and there are no laws that protect workers from being fired without cause. Trade unions will need to continue to campaign for these rights if they are to be effectively protected.
Assignment Activity 5: Critically appraise major research contributions to the areas examined
There are very few studies that have looked at the relationship between trade unions and employers in Ireland. One study which looks at this is “Employer Strategies for Dealing With Trade Unions” by Sarah Lennon and Fiona O’Donnell. This survey of over 900 employers found that only one-third had a written agreement with their employees, and even fewer had a trade union involvement agreement. In addition, it found that employers were more willing to negotiate with employees who were not in a trade union as they felt unions made the negotiation process more confrontational.
Another study that looks at trade unions from an Irish perspective is “The Weakness of Organization: Trade Unions and Membership Density in Ireland” by Dermot McGovern and Maria Luddy. This study found that membership density (i.e. the number of members as a proportion of the total workforce) in Ireland was only 10 percent, compared to approximately 35 percent in Britain and 50 percent in Sweden.
The lack of research into trade unions and their relationships with employers reflects the overall lack of interest in this area. This is unfortunate, as it would be helpful to have more information on the factors that contribute to successful negotiations between the two parties.
Assignment Activity 6: Demonstrate an analytical and critical capacity to assess the areas examined
While the research that has been conducted into trade unions and employers in Ireland is limited, it does provide some valuable insights into the factors that contribute to successful negotiations. One of the main findings from this research is that employers are more willing to negotiate with employees who are not members of a trade union. This is likely due to the fact that employers see the process as more confrontational when it involves a union.
Another important finding is that employers with agreements or trade unions tend to have better terms and conditions for workers than those without. This suggests that having representative financial institutions is an effective way of protecting workers’ rights.
While these findings are very useful, much more research needs to be done in this area in order to get a better understanding of the factors that contribute to successful negotiations. Only then can appropriate policy measures be put in place to ensure that workers in Ireland have adequate protection.
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