Chapter 9: Social dialogue and the new world of work in Ireland
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In Ireland’s voluntarist industrial relations system, the state plays a light role and legislates for neither union recognition nor collective bargaining rights. In that context, union density and collective bargaining are particularly important, but both have been declining in recent decades. Union organising drives have met with mixed results in attempts to grow membership in diverse workforces in sectors with weak existing organisation and precarious employment conditions. Legislative attempts to address the reluctance of employers to recognise unions and engage in collective bargaining have also met with mixed results. Legislation to underpin individual workers’ rights has met with more success, particularly relating to low pay and the minimum wage. However, such legislative interventions may undermine autonomous union organisation. During 2019, after several years of strong growth in the economy and employment, and a sharp decline in unemployment, wage pressure began to intensify, leading to cautious calls for a more orderly, and perhaps, centralised, approach to pay at national level.

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