The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001, as amended by the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015, allows the Labour Court to make a legally binding determination, having given legal effect to a recommendation, regarding terms and conditions of employment in certain circumstances where it is not the practice of the employer to collectively bargain with its employees. Prior to so investigating a trade dispute under this legislation, the Labour Court must be satisfied that certain pre-conditions are met. For example, the Labour Court must be satisfied that it is not the practice of the employer to engage in collective bargaining and that the number of workers associated with the dispute is not “insignificant”.
In January of this year, the Labour Court considered whether these pre-conditions were met as a preliminary matter to its investigation of the CWU’s application. It was common case that it is not the practice of Conduit to engage in collective bargaining. However, Conduit disputed that the number of workers associated with the dispute was not insignificant. The CWU submitted that 19 affected employees are party to the trade dispute. However, there was a dispute as to whether the total number of affected employees was 61 or 65. Therefore, the number of workers involved in the trade dispute was either 29% or 31.4%. The Labour Court held that either way, the number of workers who are party to the dispute was not insignificant and confirmed that it would proceed to investigate the trade dispute.
The Labour Court will now consider the substantive question of whether to make a recommendation as to the terms and conditions of affected workers. Before doing so, it must be satisfied that the totality of current pay and conditions in the company is out of line with comparable workers in similar employments.
The Labour Court’s decision in this regard will be eagerly awaited particularly as it follows the Labour Court’s first recommendation under this revised legislation in the Freshways case. In the Freshways case, the Labour Court recommended that pay rates of general operatives be increased from €9.35 to €11.50 over 18 months, a decision which has raised serious concerns regarding pay rates, industry comparators and the policy direction of the Labour Court in wage setting.
At this year’s Ibec Employment Law Conference, we will examine the potential implications of these decisions under this newly revised industrial relations legislation. We will also look at the new regime set out in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 for Registered Employment Agreements and Sectoral Employment Orders which has created a new landscape for employers.
To book your place at the Employment Law Conference, please visit http://www.ibec.ie/EmployConf.
Nichola Harkin, Solicitor, Ibec Employment Law Services Unit
Wednesday, 12 April 2017