According to the Industrial Relations Act, 1990 a Trade Dispute is any dispute between employers and employees that is “connected with the employment or non-employment, or the terms or conditions of or affecting the employment, of any person”. Industrial Action is collective action taken by employees to compel their employer to “accept or not to accept terms or conditions of or affecting employment.”
Typically, employees decide to take industrial action as a result of a grievance over pay, hours of work, holidays or in support of a co-worker (or former co-worker) who is deemed to have been treated unfairly in some way.
Examples of industrial action may include strike action, a picket, a ‘work-to-rule’ or even an overtime ban. Employers should make every effort to avoid industrial action by maintaining a harmonious working environment because industrial action can be an extremely trying time for all concerned.
A strike is a work stoppage that is caused by the mass refusal of employees to carry out their work activities. Strikes and industrial action in general, are extremely disruptive to a company’s daily operations and can be damaging in both the short and long term. Strikes can last varying amounts of time but even short work stoppages tend to be quite destructive for companies as they can carry negative publicity with them along with the obvious operational drawbacks.
A picket is a form of protest where picketers (those involved in the picket) assemble outside of their workplace, or a relevant area, in an attempt to draw attention to their cause or to discourage others from entering the premises (crossing the picket line). The objective of picketing is to harm the company via a loss of business or through negative publicity. The goal is to persuade the employer to meet picketers’ demands to cease certain activities or introduce a pay increase or reverse a decision regarding redundancies, for instance.
A ‘work-to-rule’ is where employees do the bare minimum during their work hours. They carry out the tasks required by their contract of employment and nothing more in order to slow down productivity. Employees seek to demonstrate that they are valuable to the company and perform tasks that are above and beyond what they are contractually obliged to do on a regular basis.
An overtime ban is similar to a ‘work-to-rule’ in that employees take direction from their contracts of employment. Throughout an overtime ban, employees only work the hours that they are bound by in their contract. As the name suggests, employees refuse to work any overtime.
Strikes in the news:
Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) employees at Dublin Street Parking Services, the vehicle clamping Company in Dublin, are due to be balloted today, Monday, 10th March 2014, on whether or not they should go on strike.
The dispute is over an outstanding pay rise that is owed since 2011. John King, SIPTU Organiser, stated that it is likely that the members will decide to strike over the 2.5% pay rise that they agreed to postpone until 2013 because they are still waiting for it to be applied.
Dublin City Council is threatening to pay the Company less for the service it provides if it does not meet the new target of 60,000 clamped vehicles per year.
SIPTU employees of the DAA and Aer Lingus are also threatening strike action as the dispute over their pension scheme continues. They are due to hold a four hour work stoppage at Dublin, Cork and Shannon on Friday, 14th March 2014 – just as the airport gets busy for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. This strike could prove to be extremely disruptive to many individuals hoping to travel during the four hour stoppage and for the hours, and potentially days, that follow.