The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheál Martin, has said his door is always open to trade unions regarding the enforcement of workers' rights.

Addressing delegates at the SIPTU conference in Cork, Mr Martin said he was open to further engagement to examine the Irish employment law framework so as to ensure proper regulation, compliance and enforcement.

He said such matters were of great importance to the dignity of our people and our reputation.

The Minister also said that new recommendations on resourcing the Labour Inspectorate, which polices abuses of employment rights, will be revealed in the first week of November.

Earlier, SIPTU voted unanimously to defer a decision on re-entering partnership talks unless it gets assurances from what it calls the appropriate authorities that employment standards will be maintained.

The union was due to vote today on going back into talks on a new national agreement as it has done for the last 18 years.

However, because of the controversy surrounding Irish Ferries' plan to replace 543 Irish workers with cheaper agency workers from overseas, the union has decided to withhold support for talks until a special delegate conference on 24 October.

All unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions are due to convene on 25 October to give their collective decision on whether to negotiate a new partnership deal.

However, if SIPTU continues to withhold its support it is unclear whether the talks would get underway.

Campaign motion passed

Earlier, delegates at the union’s conference unanimously passed a motion calling for a national publicity campaign to highlight the exploitation of both Irish workers and those from overseas.

They called for unscrupulous employers who exploit their workers to be publicly named and shamed.

As part of that campaign, SIPTU wants to seek tougher penalties for offending employers as well as better enforcement of existing labour law.

It also wants State contracts withheld from employers who will not certify that they are complying with labour law.

The conference also voted for better measures to protect migrant workers in the home and for all State contracts to contain a union recognition clause.

During a lengthy debate at the conference, many speakers raised concerns about abuses of employees, both Irish and foreign, in a broad range of sectors from the booming construction industry to migrant domestic workers in private homes.

It follows controversies over the last year involving firms like Irish Ferries and Gama Construction which have triggered mounting trade union anger about exploitation of workers.