Restoration of wage-setting committees ‘irrational’, Ibec says
Labour TD Nash welcomes move as ‘core objective’ of party in government
Yesterday Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton said he intended to abolish the joint labour committees that dealt with terms and conditions for staff in the hotel sector in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Ibec has described the Government’s decision to revive joint labour committees, which determine terms and conditions for workers in certain sectors, as “irrational”.
The employers’ group has also warned that plans by the Minister for Enterprise and Jobs Richard Bruton to re-introduce the joint labour committee system in a reduced and amended manner, could be unconstitutional if implemented.
However Mr Bruton’s move was welcomed by Labour Party TD Gerald Nash. It has been “a core objective” of the Labour Party in government to resurrect the joint labour committee system which had served tens of thousands of vulnerable workers in the services sector very well since the inception of the process many decades ago , Mr Nash said.
Yesterday Mr Bruton said he intended to abolish the joint labour committees that dealt with terms and conditions for staff in the hotel sector in Dublin and in relation to law clerks. Mr Bruton said he planned to amend the scope of others such as those applying in the areas of agriculture, hairdressing, grocery, hotels (outside Dublin), contract cleaning and security. He would also be amending the administration of two separate joint labour committees in the catering sector pending their amalgamation, he said.
Mr Bruton also said he intended to look at applying the joint labour committee in the hairdressing sector on a country-wide basis on foot of new legislation.
His move follows a review of the committees by the Labour Court.
Joint labour committees comprise representatives of unions and employers under an independent chairman who proposes terms and conditions to be incorporated in legally binding employment regulation orders. They previously operated in 13 sectors and covered up to 200,000 workers.
Mr Bruton signalled his intention to reform this area shortly after coming into office. However the operation of the committees was suspended in July 2011 following a successful constitutional challenge brought by a group of employers in the catering sector.
Ibec said Mr Bruton “should have accepted reality and have rejected the outcome of the Labour Court review”. “The purported effect of the review, if implemented, may also be unconstitutional,”it said.
Ibec senior advisor Loughlin Deegan said: “These committees are a relic of the past and they should be consigned to history. These committees have been dormant since a decision of the High Court in July 2011 which prevented the committees from carrying out their functions.The Labour Court review has recommended that certain key joint labour committees be revived.
“If implemented, the review’s report would lead to second-tier minimum wages being introduced for workers in some sectors, but not others, at a time when we should be doing everything we can to reduce costs in the domestic economy.
“A number of the recommendations have proposed that some of the most indefensible provisions of the system be revived. To take just one example, the review has recommended the retention of a retail grocery committee, which means that workers in grocery shops in Carlow (who work in shops which are part of a branded chain) will have to be paid higher wages than both workers in clothes shops in Carlow and grocery workers who work in independent shops.”
Mr Deegan also said that the purported effect of the review if implemented may also be unconstitutional. “Last May, the Supreme Court struck down certain legislative provisions which also relate to sectoral wage setting concerning the separate system of registered employment agreements. The effect of that judgment is that there is no realistic early prospect of wages being set by committees such as joint labour committees,” he said.
However Mr Nash described Mr Bruton’s move as “ a significant achievement”. The establishment orders to allow the revised joint labour committee system to proceed should be introduced without any delay, he said.
“The Irish Congress of Trade Unions said it welcomed the publication of the review of joint labour committees (JLCs), but said the lack of detail on how the revised system would operate in future was a ‘major cause for concern.’
The Restaurant Association of Ireland said the re-introduction of joint labour committees represented “a black day” for its sector. It described the move as a barrier to employment.