The right to association for military staff – the decision of the ECSR in EUROMIL vs. Ireland

February 12 2018 is an important day for military personnel all over Europe. It marks the ground breaking decision of the European Committee on Social Rights of the Council of Europe which recognises the right to association and the right to collective bargaining for soldiers and military staff across the continent.

In 2014, EUROMIL lodged a complaint on behalf of the Irish Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA) against Ireland on violations of Art. 5 and Art. 6 of the European Social Charter. The complaint refers to the fact that PDFORRA member associations in Ireland could not access trade union rights (the right to organise and the right to bargain collectively) or the ability to join an umbrella organization. In its decision of 2017 which was communicated to the public in February 2018, the European Committee on Social Rights decided there were violations of Art. 5 & 6.2 of the European Social Charter on the right to association and the right to collective bargaining. Moreover, the European Committee on Social Rights recommended that Irish military personnel organisations such as PDFORRA join the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) – an umbrella organisation.

CESI has always underlined the importance of the decision for military personnel across Europe as a path for more social rights and for recognising the principle of ‘citizens in uniform’. Military staff should be able to enjoy the same rights as other citizens, including ‘freedom of association for all soldiers as well as the respect of all applicable European occupational safety and health regulations for them’.

The President of trade council ‘Defence’, Mr Thomas Sohst, adds: ‘Civilian and military personnel in armies should be entitled to the protection of their fundamental rights, as well as rights concerning freedoms and equality, as enshrined in the EU Charter’.

On behalf of CESI, Secretary General Klaus Heeger congratulated both Euromil and PDFORRA for their perseverance in this case. “This is a landmark decision and, as EUROMIL has pointed out, it will have strong impact on the situation in other countries such as for instance Spain, Portugal and Italy.”

Logo: Logo European Social Charter © Council of Europe 2018