Fianna Fail, Labour, Sinn Fein, and unions criticise Varadkar's plans to ban some public strikes

"I'm not at all surprised with Leo 'Thatcher' Varadkar," one union head commented...

Fianna Fail, Labour, Sinn Fein, and unions criticise Varadkar's plans to ban some public strikes

Rolling News

Launching his 'Taking Ireland Forward' policy document this morning, Leo Varadkar unveiled plans to ban strikes by public servants in essential public and security services when a legally binding Labour Court determination has already been made.

"People should no longer be inconvenienced by strike action in essential services. The Labour Court will be the final arbiter and will ensure that workers receive a fair response to any claim. This will not impinge on the right to strike until a Labour Court determination is made," the Fine Gael TD stated.

He offered air traffic controllers as an example of a profession which would be affected by this policy. This kind of legislation could also have had an impact on last year's series of Luas strikes.

The Minister for Social Protection added that this provision would, "include emergency services where it is a matter of life and death."

Speaking at a rally in Athlone tonight, Minister Varadkar's rival for the leadership - Simon Coveney - backed the proposals for putting limits on when workers can strike.

Minister Coveney says he regrets the timing of the comments, which come just as new public pay talks get underway. However, he noted that he agrees with the 'principle' of the Social Protection Minister's proposal.

He explained: "I think there are core public services that need to be guaranteed - whether that's air traffic controllers, the armed forces, An Garda Síochana and so on.

"So I think we do need to provide some certainty around core public services that are essential to the functioning of a state."

He added: "I'd need to talk to Leo in a bit more detail about how he proposes to do that - but I think the principle of it is probably a good one."

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) has criticised this proposal - describing it as "undemocratic" and "Tory."

Its Secretary General, Dermot O'Leary, commented, "It seems to me that Leo is determined to set course on an anti-trade union, anti-worker policy.

"Whilst I'm not at all surprised with Leo 'Thatcher' Varadkar, I would be amazed and appalled if Fianna Fail, through its Supply and Confidence arrangement, were to support such a draconian attack on workers in this country," he continued.

A Fianna Fáil Spokesperson told Newstalk.com, "Anyone would be right to be amazed and appalled if Fianna Fáil agreed to any such policy. This is an internal Fine Gael election issue and we will not be commenting further."

Labour leader Brendan Howlin has called on Mr Varadkar, the front-runner to be the next Taoiseach, to abandon this pledge:

“The notion of outlawing industrial action by a cohort of workers should be anathema to anyone with even the most basic understanding of how trade unions can contribute to a healthy and vibrant society.

"Over the last five years, public sector unions took actions that recognised the difficulties facing the state. Public sector workers were not our enemy, they were at the heart of getting our country back on track. Their sacrifices deserve recognition, not vilification," he said shortly after the policy was unveiled.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers' Rights, David Cullinane, also criticised the policy:

"His daft idea would mean there would be no incentive for trade unions to use the labour court anymore, as the benefits of an unenforceable recommendation in their favour would be completely outweighed by the injury of a statutorily enforceable decision that goes against them."

"Leo's ideas are there to appeal to the same out-of-touch Fine Gael base that thought 'keep the recovery going' was a winnable election platform," the Waterford TD added.