Half of practitioners working in the Workplace Relations Commission are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with how it is operating, one year after its set-up, according to a survey.
Last year a range of legal entities was replaced by a new two-tier system of the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court in what was described as the biggest change to industrial relations and employment rights in the history of the State.
However, a survey published today by the Employment Law Association Of Ireland (ELAI), involving respondents that included barristers, trade union representatives, solicitors and employer organisation representatives, found that one out of two respondents believe the new system is worse than the one it replaced.
The results are the first insight into the operational functions of the WRC, where all proceedings are held in camera. Labour Court hearings are held in public.
The survey found that three in five practitioners believe the format of the WRC’s adjudication hearings is inconsistent, meaning they are unable to advise clients on basic issues relating to the format of a hearing.
It also found only one in 10 of the respondents were satisfied with the consistency of the adjudication officers’ rulings. Two in five were dissatisfied with the quality of the rulings.
By comparison, the Labour Court attracted a higher level of satisfaction, with three out of five respondents saying they were satisfied with the competence of the court, with the same ratio satisfied with the quality of the court’s rulings.
"The survey indicates that practitioners are experiencing significant difficulties with the new system for resolving workplace disputes, particularly at the WRC," said law lecturer Dr Brian Barry, a member of the ELAI committee who carried out the research.
“These difficulties affect workers and employers in dispute over important employment rights issues such as unfair dismissal claims, workplace discrimination and maternity leave entitlements.”
The ELAI chair, Colleen Cleary, said the inconsistencies that have been identified are "going on under the radar" and it was incumbent on the association not only to highlight them, but to chart a way forward to achieve change.
The survey received 139 responses, having approached approximately 350 practitioners by way of their respective representative organisations.
*This article has been amended to correct an error.