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  • Employee cutting

    Construction Ensure

    One might be naïve enough to believe that Unions are in place to protect the rights of workers but this case suggests that one particular Union BATU`s only interest was to protect its own interests to the extent of preventing the Plaintiff from getting any building work in the Limerick area. In the High Court case of John O`Connell –v- Building and Allied Trades Union and Ors and Construction Industry Federation (17/7/2014, [2014] IEHC 360 ) the Plaintiff, a block-layer, claimed that the defendant Union BATU refused to allow him membership and thereby prevented him from working.


    BATU Union

    Unfair and unreasonable conditions imposed by Union
    The Plaintiff had been a member of the Union prior to leaving the country to work abroad for a period. His Union dues fell into arrears and his membership lapsed. The Plaintiff claimed that the defendant would only admit him to a probationary membership with unfair and unreasonable conditions attached and alleged that he was effectively blacked from working in the Limerick area.

    Unlawful interference by Union
    The Plaintiff, unable to afford to pay a legal team by reason of lack of income, represented himself in the High Court. The circumstances of the case outline many instances where the Plaintiff would get work on building sites only to be subsequently dismissed because of interference by the Union which would direct the employer not to employee non-Union employees.

    The Court`s Decision
    Mr Justice Ryan held that the Plaintiff had a constitutional right to associate and dissociate

    Protecting Construction

    Construction Workers

    and a right to work. The defendant had no right to stigmatise the Plaintiff or have him removed from building sites because he was not a Union member. It is unlawful for a Union to operate a closed shop policy and yet refuse a qualified person membership. The Plaintiff’s claim against first defendant BATU succeeded and the judge directed a separate hearing on damages. The Plaintiff’s claim against the second defendant the CIF failed for being statute barred and on grounds that there was no evidence of conspiracy between first and second defendant.

    Intimidation and Conspiracy by Union


    Roof Cladding

    Mr Justice Ryan concluded that the Plaintiff was wrongfully excluded from the Union which then put him out of work because he was not a member. Accordingly, BATU and its officers breached the Plaintiff`s Constitutional Rights and engaged in a campaign against the Plaintiff that constituted the torts of intimidation and conspiracy by excluding him from membership and threatening builders who employed him.


    The BATU Vision
    The BATU Union website states that it “is committed to a fair working deal for all Building workers …. representing all our trades equally and effectively and promoting a new vision of working life for all workers in our trades”. Unfortunately Mr O`Connell did not get a fair deal or equal representation on this occasion. If this represents a “a new vision of working life for all workers in our trades” then I think it`s time to go back to the drawing board!