Trade unions in Ireland, including the biggest trade union bodies in the country, have been warned that they could lose access to some government grants if they continue to engage in the “bipartisan” approach to negotiating the next general election.
The Government is considering whether to impose a moratorium on new union memberships.
In recent weeks, the number of unions operating in Ireland has plummeted by almost half.
A recent survey found that nearly a third of the unions surveyed had already decided not to renew their membership.
The Department of Jobs and Enterprise, which administers the Employment Relations Act, is considering a ban on new memberships for existing members.
The new law would force unions to stop using the existing membership cards and cards for new members.
“There is a growing concern that existing members will be impacted by this legislation,” said Simon Murphy, the union’s General Secretary.
It would also require unions to establish a “code of conduct” which could be used by any member in the future.
Mr Murphy said the “uncertainty” surrounding the impact of the law was the reason why unions had to make a “significant contribution” to the election campaign.
“The public’s trust in the Government is being tested by these measures,” he said.
Labour and Fine Gael are opposed to the new law.
“Trade unionism is a vital tool in our fight for the good of our communities and for fairness and opportunity for all,” a spokesman for the parties said.
“Trade unionists have fought for decades to protect the rights of all our citizens.
Trade unions have played a key role in ensuring that our society has a fair and just economy, and we will continue to work with unions to ensure that all our communities benefit from fair wages, fair working conditions, and fair access to public services.”
Mr Gallagher said the Government had “no plans” to scrap the “diversity” provision in the law.
He said it would only apply to new members, which is why it was being discussed.
“The legislation is a reflection of our commitment to ensuring that new members are represented and protected,” he added.
Trade unions are not alone in the Irish labour market.
The Irish Independent understands that there is “serious concern” among the large number of local authorities that are considering imposing new restrictions on trade unions.
In the past, some local authorities have been reluctant to change the rules because they believed unions had a strong political influence on the community.
However, Mr Murphy said this was changing.
“This is the first time the Government has put a moratorium in place on union membership,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the Government said it was “unfazed” by the growing number of union members.
According to a Department of Employment spokesperson, it is “very clear that there has been a change in attitude” in the union movement in recent years.
But Mr Murphy questioned whether the “political climate” had changed.
Last year, Mr Gallagher warned that “baptism in the workplace” was “a myth” and “fraudulent”.