Government agrees to reform the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD today (Tuesday) secured Cabinet approval to reform the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001 to legislate for an improved and modernised industrial relations framework that will provide more clarity for employers and  more effectiveness for workers.

This reform continues Minister Bruton’s wider modernisation agenda in the enterprise area which has seen a significant overhaul of policy, agencies and legislation over the last three years.

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When enacted, this legislation will mark the fulfilment of an important commitment in the Programme for Government. It will provide a clear and balanced mechanism by which the fairness of the employment conditions of workers in their totality can be assessed where collective bargaining does not take place. It will provide clarity and certainty for employers in managing their workplaces over the years ahead.

The Minister acknowledged the contributions of key actors from both sides of industry to date who, he said, have come to these discussions with well-articulated positions of what they would like to see in terms of an outcome. The Minister will continue to consult with stakeholders in drafting the Heads of Bill.

The proposals are derived from a lengthy consultation process involving extensive engagement with stakeholders with a view to arriving at broadly acceptable proposals that will operate effectively in practice.

The main provisions include:

·        a definition of what constitutes “collective bargaining”

·        provisions to help the Labour Court identify if internal bargaining bodies are genuinely independent of their employer

·        bringing clarity to the requirements to be met by a Trade Union advancing a claim under the Act

·        setting out policies and principles for the Labour Court to follow when assessing those workers’ terms and conditions, including the sustainability of the employers business in the long-term

·        new provisions to ensure cases dealt with are ones where the numbers of workers are not insignificant

·        provisions to ensure remuneration, terms and conditions are looked at in their totality

·        provisions to limit the frequency of reassessment of the same issues

·        an explicit prohibition on the use by employers of inducements (financial or otherwise) designed specifically to have staff forego collective representation by a trade union

·        enhanced protection for workers who may feel that they are being victimised for exercising their rights in this regard by way of interim relief in the case of dismissal

Minister Bruton said: “In developing these proposals, I have been keen to respect the positions of both sides of industry. They will retain our voluntary system of industrial relations, but also ensure that workers have confidence that, where there is no collective bargaining, they have an effective system that ensures they can air problems about remuneration, terms and conditions and have these determined based on those in similar companies and not be victimised for doing so”.

The Minister concluded by saying that he is confident that the legislation when enacted will be framed in such a way as to fit our constitutional, social and economic traditions, our international obligations, and to ensure continued success in attracting investment into our economy and support Irish companies to grow.

Minister of State for Research and Innovation, Seán Sherlock TD, said: “In agreeing this reform of our industrial relations legislation this Government has delivered on its commitment to people at work once again. I am confident that this legislation will not only restore the rights contained in the original 2001/2004 Industrial Relations Acts, but will be an improvement on that legislation and will ensure that all workers who do not have a collective voice in their company will have a transparent, fair and effective means of having their terms and conditions assessed. I want to pay tribute to all those who participated in a spirit of cooperation in reaching this point in the process, from both the employer and the union side”.