Non-union employers may be compelled to negotiate with trade unions under a new plan on the future of collective bargaining and industrial relations.

Last year, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar set up a high-level working group under the auspices of the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) to review collective bargaining and the industrial relations landscape in Ireland.

The group was chaired by Professor Michael Doherty of Maynooth University and included representatives of unions, employers and the Government.

Its report is due to be published soon by the Government and it is understood it will include a recommendation that there be 'good faith engagement' between employers and unions.

Under the proposal, if a union represents 10% or more of a grade, group or category within a company, the employer will be obliged to engage in good faith with the union and can been ordered to do so by the Circuit Court.

The report is also expected to recommend reforms of Joint Labour Committees (JLCs).

These are independent bodies made up of equal numbers of employer and worker representatives that set employment conditions and minimum rates of pay for workers in certain sectors.

Another recommendation is believed to relate to the appointment of technical assessors by the Labour Court, who will be able to assist the court by gathering information about pay rates in specific sectors.

The report of the high-level working group comes ahead of a new EU directive which will require member states to facilitate much greater collective bargaining.