HRI chief executive insists racing is 'not a nine to five, Monday to Friday' sector
Kavanagh says strict implementation of laws would make operations ‘impossible’
HRI chief executve Brian Kavanagh: “I think people know working with horses is not a nine to five, Monday to Friday job and that degrees of flexibility are required.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho.
The chief executive of Irish racing’s ruling body has said insistence on implementing strict employment laws outside the definition of agricultural work would make operations “impossible” within the bloodstock industry.
Horse Racing Ireland’s Brian Kavanagh also rejected criticism that the semi-state body should have foreseen difficulties arising from legislative changes that put racing yards outside a new definition of what constitutes agriculture.
Trainers have warned of catastrophic consequences if racing yards don’t have exempt status from working hours rules and aren’t recognised as agricultural workplaces.
Last week champion trainer Aidan O’Brien appeared in the Labour Court as part of Ballydoyle stables’ appeal against a compliance notice by the Workplace Relations Commission over alleged infringements of the Working Time Act.
A verdict on that appeal is expected later this month and during the 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.
“I think people know working with horses is not a nine to five, Monday to Friday job and that degrees of flexibility are required. Trying to operate a racing stable or a breeding farm on a normal nine to five, Monday to Friday basis would be impossible,” Kavanagh said on Sunday.
Definition of agriculture
He dismissed the suggestion that HRI could have averted any impact on racing by the 2015 amendment to the industrial relations act which means training yards do not quality any more for working hours exemptions allowed for agricultural workplaces.
“There was no indication in documentation surrounding the introduction of this legislation that this was in order to change the definition of agriculture for horse racing purposes.
”This was a separate piece of legislation to do with replacing joint-labour agreements previously in place across a range of sectors which were found to be unconstitutional. So new legislation was brought in by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation and in that there is a narrow definition of agriculture.
“There are previous pieces of legislation and European directives which retain a broader definition of agriculture and we have taken that up with the Department of Agriculture.
“But no one has brought forward any case to me that the definition of agriculture was to be changed. We are discussing it with the Department of Agriculture and they don’t see any change in the definition. So maybe this is an unintended consequence,” Kavanagh added.
However he said that even the new definition of agriculture, which he described as a very serious issue, could be applied to racing yards.
“The wording of the legislation is ‘production of animals’ and I would argue that the breeding, training and development of horses qualifies for that definition,” Kavanagh declared.
Separately, HRI’s spokesman predicted a long-awaited anti-doping protocol between all sectors of the thoroughbred industry will be in place before the end of the year.
A system by which animals can be tested throughout their lives was a key recommendation of an Anti-Doping Task Force report published at the start of 2016. HRI has taken a leading role in negotiations in recent months.
“This is a long way down the road now, beyond the principle stage, and we’re at the implementation stage. Certain practical elements have to be teased out but a protocol will definitely be in place before the end of the year,” Kavanagh said.
“Practical issues have to be addressed such as the whole traceability issue of an animal from birth all the way through. And that involves changes in co-registration and changes in declarations at various stages, all of which takes teasing out.
“But the long-term aim is to make this an industry wide policy and to make Ireland the best in the area for both the breeding and racing sectors,” he added.
A proposal document has been circulated to bodies representing owners, breeders, trainers, the Turf Club, the three major sales companies and Weatherbys, the administration company that oversees the thoroughbred register. The HRI board is expected to discuss progress on the matter at a meeting on Friday.
Monday’s Roscommon card will have to pass an 8.0am inspection in order to go ahead. The ground is heavy and was waterlogged in places on Sunday.
As a half sister to Rehana, Dermot Weld’s Raynama isn’t bred to thrive in such conditions. But she was backed to win at Galway when third and Weld’s horses are in much better form now.