Hoteliers begin minimum wage challenge

 

The Irish Hotels Federation and a Co Clare hotelier will today begin a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the fixing of a statutory minimum wage for some staff.

The action is being brought by by Vaughan Lodge Ltd, which operates the Vaughan Lodge in Lahinch; Michael Vaughan; and the Irish Hotels Federation against the Hotels Joint Labour Committee (JLC), the Labour Court, Ireland and the Attorney General.

The challenge is to the decision of the Labour Court of November 5th, 2007, approving proposals of the Hotels JLC for a minimum wage for some 25,000 staff in a large number of hotel businesses, and fixing those minimum rates.

The rate fixed is higher than that applied to staff working in hotel premises in Dublin, Dún Laoghaire and Cork city.

Mr Vaughan claims his hotel's wage costs have increased by 25 per cent in the past three years and now amount to 42 per cent of its income.

Under certain sections of the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 and 1990, the Hotels JLC and the Labour Court have powers to make and approve proposals fixing wage rates and conditions of employment that are then binding.

In the action, it is alleged that the relevant provisions of the Industrial Relations Acts are unconstitutional, incompatible with the State's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and an unlawful and disproportionate interference with the property rights of the applicants.

It is claimed the 1946 and 1990 Acts do not identify any goals, standards or factors to be applied by the Hotels JLC and Labour Court when exercising the powers conferred on them.

The respondents have the power to fix minimum rates of pay and conditions of employment in excess of those decided upon by the Oireachtas without reference to any identified or definable principles, it is contended.

It is also contended the chairman of the Hotels JLC was guilty of predetermination in finding he was obliged to apply the terms of the national wage agreement, "Towards 2016", to the rates of pay of the workers in question.