Rising to the Occasion? Trade Union Revitalisation and Migrant Workers in Ireland

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particular difficulites for your union in recruiting migrant workers? (Please tick all relevant boxes)

Language barriers

Nature of employment

Location of employment

Resistance to unionisation

Lack of staff resources

Lack of financial resources

Don't know

Other (please give details)

  1. Participation

    1. Does your union have any migrant workers as shop stewards/workplace representatives?



Don't know

    1. If yes, how many?

1 ­ 5

5 ­ 10

10 ­ 20

more than 20

    1. Are migrant workers represented on your decision making bodies listed below?



Don't know

15. If yes, how many?





more than 20

National Executive

Branch committees

Annual conference

Other committees

Don't know

16. Are migrant workers employed by your union?



Don't know

17. If yes, how many?





At Union official level and above

At support staff level

Other (please specify)

Don't know

  1. What measures has your union taken to increase involvement of migrant workers? (Please tick all relevant boxes)

Targeted training on trade union issues

Language training

Anti­discrimination training for broader membership

Special committees

Specialist services (e.g. leaflets in different languages)

Positive discrimination measures (e.g. reserved places on committees)

Forged links with unions in countries from which migrants originally came


Other (please give details)

  1. What do you see as the obstacles for migrant workers to advance within your union? (advancement as outlined in questions 12, 14 & 15 above)

  1. Policies and Services

    1. Does your union have a stated policy on:



Immigrant workers

Irregular/illegal migration


    1. Do migrant issues feature in workplace negotiations? (issues such as language training, translation of health and safety materials etc.)



Don't know

If yes, please outline types of issues

    1. What particular services does your union offer to migrant workers? (Please tick all relevant boxes)

Workplace advice

Workplace representation

Language training

Training on trade union issues

Advice and services on migration issues (eg work permits, residency)

Advice and services on social issues (eg housing, health)


Don't know

    1. Are these services available to:

Union members only

Both union members and non­union members

Migrants in irregular/illegal work

Don't know

    1. Please outline briefly the characteristics of any initiative your union might wish to take to increase participation of migrant workers in union structures.

Such an outline will be considered as an expression of interest to the Integrated Workplace Strategy Challenge Fund, as described in the covering email, which will see 3 grants of €5000 for such initiatives. If your proposal is successful, your union will be asked to develop the idea further.

    1. FINALLY, If you would like to add any other comments or observations, please do so here

1 See Barrett 2009; Barrett & Duffy 2007; Barrett et al 2005; Conroy and Brennan 2003; Dundon et al 2007; Mac Éinrí and Walley 2003; O’Connell & McGinnity 2008; Ruhs 2003;

2 Taylorism is a production efficiency methodology developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor in the 1880s, based on time and motion principles, whereby every action, job, or task is broken down into small and simple segments which can be easily analysed. 

3 Fordism gets its name from Henry Ford and is a manufacturing philosophy of the mid-20th century which proposed the achievement of higher productivity by standardising output, using assembly lines and breaking the work down into small deskilled tasks.

4 Keynes’ theory that optimal economic performance could be achieved – and economic slumps prevented – by influencing aggregate demand through activist stabilization and economic intervention policies by government.


See Turner et al., 2008a; 2008b; Krings 2007, 2009a; 2009b; Milkman, 2000, 2006; Munck 2004; Wrench 2000, 2004 and. Haus 2002


See Holgate 2009; Martinez Lucio and Perrett 2009a, 2009b; Fine 2005, 2006; Tait 2005; Wills 2001, 2002, 2006..


Holgate 2009; Martinez Lucio and Perrett 2009a, 2009b; Turner et al. 2008a, 2008b; Krings 2007, 2009b; Fine 2005, 2006; Fulton, 2003, 2007; Frege and Kelly, 2003, 2004; Milkman 2000, 2006; Wrench, 2000, 2004; Wills, 2001, 2002, 2006; Tait, 2005; Penninx and Roosblad, 2000; and Castles and Kosack, 1973.

 The tipping point is the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development. It is the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.

 CGT, one of the two main confederations, established a designated National Committee of Immigrant Labour after the war while the other, the CFDT had a Foreign Workers’ Section.

The Bolkestein Directive set out to establish the ‘country of origin principle’ for workers within the EU whereby workers ‘posted’ from one European country to another could be paid the lower wage rates of the sending country. It was subsequently watered down considerably to become the ‘Services Directive, 2006’

 (e.g. Finland to Sweden; Ireland to Britain, Italy to France and other parts of northern Europe; Portugal to France)

 As outlined in Chapter Three, I sat on this Working Group from 2007 to 2010 as a participant observer / Irish informant, nominated by the ICTU.

 BSLN is a transnational co-operation project of 22 partners and associated partners from 8 countries in the Baltic Sea region (Finland, Sweden, Denmark, German, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) which commenced in 2008 and is scheduled to run until 2011. The partners included trade unions, employer organisations, politicians and academics who worked together transnationally to develop sustainable and responsible labour markets

 The IRTUCs are an ETUC initiative, which bring together regional organisations of the national trade union confederations in cross border regions. In 2010 there were 45 of them across Europe, many of which are running joint initiatives focused on cross-border labour migration issues.

 I again acted as an Irish participant observer on this project working group.

 See Heyes and Hyland 2012; Turner et al. 2008a, 2008b; Krings 2007, 2009a; 2009b; Mac Éinrí, 2005; 2008; Fanning 2007; Barrett and Duffy 2007; Barrett et al. 2005; Ruhs 2005.

 The first recorded use of the phrase ‘Celtic Tiger’ is in a 1994 Morgan Stanley report by Kevin Gardiner (Kirby et al, 2002, p17).

EU10 refers to the ten EU accession states: Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Cyprus and Malta.

This included the ESRI at the time

EU Commission (2001) The Free Movement of Workers in the Context of Enlargement

 The very significant recruitment of non-Irish nurses was a particular phenomenon, largely created by a shift in nurse education in the late 1990s from a three year hospital-based practical training to a four year university-based degree programme.

 The NCCRI had been established in 1998 as an independent expert body to provide advice and to develop initiatives to combat racism and promote inter-culturalism. It was a partnership body, bringing together government and non-government organisations

 This became less of an issue after the enactment of the Employment Permits Act 2006 which allows the work permit to rest with the employee.

 The directive was not actually transposed into Irish law until May 2012

 From January 2012 all information on rights and obligations under employment equality and industrial relations legislation is provided through a single point of contact, Workplace Relations. There is currently new legislation in preparation (expected to be enacted in 2014) to establish the Workplace Relations Commission which will bring together the existing services of the Labour Relations Commission, Rights Commissioner Service, Equality Tribunal, the National Employment Rights Authority and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal. The Labour Court will be the single appeal body for all workplace relations appeals, including those currently heard by the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

 Charles Haughey served as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland four times: from 1979 to 1981; 1982; 1987 to 1989 and 1989 to 1992

 Union density among women now almost equals that of men, middle aged male factory workers no longer being the typical union member

Density dropped to 29% in Q2, 2013 (CSO, QNHS).

 The trade union movement argues that CSO data is underestimates trade union membership and does not constitute a comprehensive census of membership or density levels. It considers the CSO household survey provides a ‘snapshot’ sample of workers and insists its own data on actual ‘paying members’ is a more accurate reflection of union density. But union density figures from union records are not precise either. Unions collect the information in different ways, some do not publish detailed figures or published figures include union members who are not actual workers, (e.g. retired persons, students and the unemployed (Barrett and Kelly, 2008; Roche, 2007). Also, many unions do not collect information on membership breakdown in terms of sex, age or nationality. So, while statistical information contained herein provides good indicators of trade union density and migrant worker membership, its absolute accuracy cannot be presumed upon.

 Data for the period 1945 – 1995 is drawn from UCD DUES Data Series on Trade Unions in Ireland, 1925 – 1995. Data for the period from 1996 onwards is drawn from the CSO QNHS, (2005, 2007; 2010). While the figures differ, as discussed earlier in the chapter, there is a similar trajectory, meaning that the issue of membership decline is not in dispute.

 He was speaking a Global Labour University seminar in Johannesburg, Tuesday, May 14th, 2013).

 In 2008, it was replaced by a government-sponsored Action Strategy for Integrated Workplaces.

 Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) only began to collect information on the trade union membership levels of non-Irish nationals in 2004 and ceased to collect it after 2009. This means that it is impossible to know the current levels of migrant worker union membership as so few unions collect the information and, even in the cases where they do; there are issues around accuracy as discussed previously.

 Many of the unions surveyed have insignificant numbers of migrant workers within their membership so the collection of such information is of less importance.

 Joint Industrial Council, defined in the Industrial Relations Act, 1946 as an association of persons which is substantially representative of workers of a particular class, type or group and their employers

 INMO union dues

 The word ‘culchie’ is a slang term sometimes used by Dublin natives to describe a person from rural Ireland.

 Max Frisch was a Swiss writer and philosopher and was speaking here of the post-war guest-worker programme in Switzerland

 The Dáil, (Dáil Éireann) is the lower house, but principal chamber, of the Oireachtas (the Irish parliament).


Subsequently, 491 of the Gama workers sought to bring actions against their employers for some €40.3 million compensation over alleged underpayment of wages and benefits while working in Ireland. They have been seeking to bring the actions in Ireland, rather than in Turkey and the case is currently before the Irish courts.


European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, 2004 - 2010

 Estimates vary between those of the Garda Siochana of 60,000 to those of ICTU of 100,000

 That situation is likely to change when, and if, BATU merges with SIPTU, consideration of which has been on the agenda of both unions since 2011 but had still not taken place at the end of 2014.

 The recession impacted on the implementation of this provision and numbers of language support teachers were subsequently reduced.

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