Dublin Port Co to pay chief €45,000 over permanency refusal

Eamonn O’Reilly took Workplace Relations Commission case against his employer

Eamonn O’Reilly of Dublin Port Company took a Workplace Relations Commission  case against his employer after it refused to recognise his right to permanency.

Eamonn O’Reilly of Dublin Port Company took a Workplace Relations Commission case against his employer after it refused to recognise his right to permanency.

 

The chief executive of Dublin Port Company has taken a successful employment case against the company, which has been ordered to pay him €45,000 after refusing to offer a permanent contract.

Separately, it has been confirmed that both the Department of Transport and the Oireachtas Transport Committee received solicitors’ letters attempting to block discussion on the pay and contracts of chief executives of semi-State companies under the aegis of the department at a committee meeting earlier this month.

News of attempts to block discussion on the topic, which was prompted by an article in The Irish Times in May, comes after Eamonn O’Reilly of Dublin Port Company took a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) case against his employer after it refused to recognise his right to permanency.

In a ruling issued earlier this year, WRC adjudication officer John Tierney sided with Mr O’Reilly in his claim for so-called Contract of Indefinite Duration (CID) status, and further awarded him €45,000 in compensation.

Mr O’Reilly had an annual remuneration package worth €293,000 in 2015, according to latest accounts published by the company.

The decision is listed on an anonymised basis on the WRC website - references are only made to a chief executive of a State company - but the identity of the complainant has since been confirmed as Mr O’Reilly.

Last month, The Irish Times revealed that seven chief executives of semi-State companies operating under the Department of Transport’s remit had served in their roles for longer than seven years, the recommended limit in Government policy, which should only be exceeded in “exceptional” circumstances.

Several of the chief executives in question have already successfully invoked a specific right to CID status.

Port of Cork chief executive Brendan Keating, who has served in the position since 2002, also recently applied to the WRC to assert his right to a permanent contract, and a decision in that case is expected soon.

At an adjudication hearing in December 2016, the WRC heard that Mr O’Reilly was first appointed as chief executive of Dublin Port Company in August 2010 and his contract was extended for a further period of four years beyond August 2013.

Seven-year limit

In its argument to the WRC, Dublin Port Company contended that Government policy regarding the contracts of semi-State chief executives meant it could not retain Mr O’Reilly beyond the seven-year limit laid down, which was due to expire in August 2017.

In his submission, Mr O’Reilly said his employment status satisfied the legal requirements for the provision of a CID, as he had been retained on two fixed-term contracts for a period greater than four years.

He said he always “utterly rejected” any attempt to limit his term of employment beyond 2017, and referenced a letter said to have been sent by the chairwoman of Dublin Port Company Lucy McCaffrey in January 2015 to the then minister for transport Paschal Donohoe recommending an extension of his contract.

Mr O’Reilly said this served to undermine “any veracity or credibility” to the company’s attempts to limit his term of employment.

The WRC adjudicator rubbished the argument that Government policy effectively precluded Mr O’Reilly from receiving a permanent contract, and awarded €45,000 compensation, as is allowed for under the circumstances as per the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003.

Both Dublin Port Company and Mr O’Reilly refused to comment on the case when approached by The Irish Times.

The company also refused to confirm if the compensation figure of €45,000 had yet been paid, but it is understood the initial decision by the WRC has not been contested.

Thrown into disarray

The broader issue of chief executive contracts was due to be discussed at an Oireachtas Transport Committee meeting on June 1st, but the plans were thrown into disarray after a last-minute legal submission was received by the committee mentioning data protection concerns.

The identity of the sender is not known, and there are no suggestions that the submission was sent by Mr O’Reilly.

A discussion of the issue involving Minister for Transport Shane Ross was subsequently postponed to allow for legal consideration, and it is understood that the committee later received advice that the matter can be discussed publicly.

The item is expected to be returned to the agenda for another appearance of the minister before the committee, due take place next Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport confirmed it also received legal correspondence on the issue and is “seeking further legal advice”.