Employees have a right set down in the Constitution to join a trade union. A trade union can provide an important source of information and protection in relation to employment matters, as well as negotiating with the employer for better pay and conditions.
There is no legal obligation on an employer to negotiate with a union on behalf of an employee member, unless previously agreed. This does not prevent a dispute about trade union recognition from being a lawful dispute.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) is the single umbrella organisation for trade unions, representing a range of interests of employees, both in Ireland and in Northern Ireland. ICTU also run the website unionconnect.ie to facilitate people to join a union.
It can be made a condition of employment that you must join a particular union upon accepting a job offer and remain in that union while you remain an employee in that job. There is a view that this may not be constitutional, but this has not been tested in the courts yet. If you are already in the job without being a union member and are at a later stage required to join a union by your employer, you can refuse, as this is unconstitutional.
Dismissal for trade union activity or membership is automatically unfair and an employee dismissed in such circumstances does not require any particular length of service in the job in order to enforce his/her rights.
The rate of subscription paid to your trade union will be determined by the trade union but is usually at the rate of 0.5% to 1% of your gross salary per year.
Since 1 January 2011 tax relief for trade union subscriptions has been abolished. In 2010 the standard-rated tax allowance in respect of subscriptions paid by members of trade unions was €350 per year which equated to a tax credit of €70.
If you have been dismissed from your employment for trade union activity, this is automatically unfair under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2007. You do not require any particular length of service as an employee, to bring a case in this instance under the law. You can bring your case using the new online complaint form (available by selecting ‘Make a complaint in relation to employment rights’ on workplacerelations.ie).
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
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Tel: (059) 917 8990
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If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.