Cabinet moves to streamline industrial relations system

New structure, merging five existing State agencies into two bodies, due to be in place by the end of the year

Minister for Jobs and Enterprise Richard Bruton speaking yesterday after Cabinet approval of the Workplace Relations Bill 2014. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Jobs and Enterprise Richard Bruton speaking yesterday after Cabinet approval of the Workplace Relations Bill 2014. Photograph: Alan Betson

Wed, Jul 9, 2014, 01:04

A new industrial relations structure, under the remit of five existing State agencies merged into two, will be in place by the end of the year, following Cabinet approval of legislation to reform the system yesterday.

The new system will comprise two new bodies, the Workplace Relations Commission, which will deal with workplace complaints in the first instance, and the Labour Court, which will deal with appeals.

The responsibilities of the five existing organisations – the Labour Relations Commission; the National Employment Rights Authority; the Equality Tribunal; the Employment Appeals Tribunal; and the Labour Court – will be subsumed into the two new bodies.

The Government says the move will make the process less cumbersome, and the cost of running the system will fall by €2 million, or 10 per cent.

Staffing levels will also fall by 20 per cent, and Minister for Jobs and Enterprise Richard Bruton said it meant the number of quangos under his department’s remit would be reduced.

It is envisaged that the Workplace Relations Bill will be enacted by the end of the year.

Mr Bruton said the current system was not performing and that the move followed a review of the area initiated by him when he took up office in 2011.

‘Confusing and frustrating’

The existing set-up was described as “confusing and frustrating for employers, employees and professionals representing them”.

“Reform of the State’s employment rights and industrial relations bodies has two principal goals: to deliver a better service for employers and employees, and to deliver savings for the taxpayer, businesses and workers,” Mr Bruton said.

“We will deliver a better service to the users of these services: employers and employees who wish to avoid or resolve disputes in the workplace or who are seeking to have employment rights enforced or adjudicated.”

Some eight reports were carried out into the existing workplace relations system, and criticisms outlined in these reports included the claim that the five organisations in place at the moment had “overlapping, but completely separate, objectives and operations”.

The current system was also described as being “so complex that even experienced practitioners find it difficult to comprehend”, with a lack of consistency across the system, which was “overly legalistic” in places.

The Department of Enterprise said the new system would be more focused on “early and informal resolution of disputes”, as well as a cheaper, quicker and easier disputes system, which would lead to “far speedier listing of cases for hearing and issuing of decisions”.