Ballydoyle’s dismissed appeal a ‘very serious concern’ for racing - HRI boss
Coolmore decline to comment ahead of Labour Court ruling being made public
A file photograph of the gallops at Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Horse Racing Ireland’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh has said reports the Labour Court has dismissed an appeal by Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stables against compliance notices issued by the Workplace Relations Commission are of “very serious concern” for racing.
The Ballydoyle appeal was taken against a compliance notice by the WRC over infringements of the Working Time Act during inspections at the world famous yard in 2016.
During the appeal hearing evidence was given of stable staff at Ballydoyle working up to 19 hours in a day and up to 28 days in a row.
A 2015 amendment to the industrial relations act means racing industry employees are not entitled to the status of agricultural work anymore and training yards are not entitled to working hours exemptions.
Ballydoyle is the racing arm of Coolmore Stud’s huge bloodstock operation and the basis of the Labour Court appeal was that the care of racehorses is an agricultural activity. The appeal was widely seen as a hugely significant case for the racing industry in general.
Coolmore declined to comment on the reports on Friday night. A spokesperson said the Labour Court determination won’t be published until Wednesday and said the organisation has no response because the ruling isn’t public at this point.
However the HRI chief Kavanagh, who said last year that implementing strict employment laws outside the definition of agricultural work would make operations “impossible” within the bloodstock industry, said he was very concerned.
“I’d be greatly concerned at any determination that racing is not an agricultural activity. Racing has always been part of the agricultural sector. We answer to the Department of Agriculture. It sustains lots of jobs in rural areas. Our port of call is the Department of Agriculture. It’s all about animal husbandry and care,” he said.
Kavanagh stressed he would have to consider any judgment issued by the Labour Court before commenting in more depth but conceded: “It is of very serious concern to trainers in particular.
“Lots of sectors like agriculture, hospitality, transport all have to have flexibility to operate and manage the workload.”
Ballydoyle’s Labour Court appeal argued that the racing arm is inextricably linked to Coolmore, which is an agricultural enterprise.
However, the Labour Court is believed to have rejected the argument that Ballydoyle was entitled to derogation from providing statutory rest periods for agricultural activities to its employees.
Ballydoyle now has the option of appealing the decision to the High Court, a move which is thought likely to take place.