New legislation will give certainty to developers and workers on school building projects

The Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan TD, today met with her colleague the Minister for Business and Employment, Gerald Nash TD, to discuss progress on new legislation which is aimed at replacing the Registered Employment Agreement system (REAs).

The Government recently approved the drafting of the legislation to provide for a revised legislative framework to replace REAs. This follows a judgement by the Supreme Court (McGowan and others v the Labour Court, Ireland and the Attorney General) which effectively made the registration of employment agreements invalid.

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The legislation is of particular interest to Minister O’Sullivan given the five year €2 billion programme of school building currently underway in the Department of Education.
Minister O’Sullivan said: “Having clarity and transparency on this matter is a priority for the Government. The present situation is not tenable. Responsible employers and workers deserve a transparent system that ensures decent rates of pay are maintained across the construction sector in particular.

“That is the goal of the legislation that Minister Nash is drafting and I fully support these reforming efforts. Having a coherent framework for pay in the sector is in the interests of employers, workers and contractors and I look forward to working with Minister Nash to advance this agenda.”
Minister Nash said: “Good progress is being made on the drafting of the legislation to replace REAs. It is one of my top priorities and will be moving to pre-legislative scrutiny stage next month.
“We want to support a sustainable and competitive construction sector and I believe this legislation will assist in providing certainty for workers as well as businesses tendering for contracts.
“Skilled workers should be fairly remunerated for their work. Employers should have certainty over labour costs. We also want to ensure that Irish companies are not disadvantaged when tendering for contracts, including in the school building sector, because of an unlevel playing field or lack of clarity in the area.”
The new legislation will allow unions and employers to apply to the Labour Court to undertake a review of pay/pensions/sick pay in terms of workers in a particular sector and make recommendations to the Minister for the making of an order in these areas. It will also provide for flexibility in response to changing economic circumstances or changes in the make-up of a sector.

The new legislation will include provisions for:
· A mechanism whereby the Labour Court can initiate a review of the pay/pensions/sick pay terms of workers in a particular sector and make recommendations to the Minister. An employer body or trade union will be able to apply to the Labour Court looking for such a process or for a particular recommendation to the Minister
· Specific principles and policies that the Labour Court will be obliged to take into account when considering whether/what recommendation to make to the Minister in relation to pay/pensions/sick pay terms
· Interested parties will be able to make submissions to the Labour Court in the context of a review
· Oireachtas oversight of these issues
· Provision to allow firms in financial difficulties to apply for a temporary derogation from the obligations set out in an order
· Requirement for an employer or trade union body to be ‘substantially representative’ in the relevant sector, as defined, before it can make an application for a review or a recommendation
· Anti-penalisation measures
· Facility for the Minister, if satisfied, to make an order giving effect to a Labour Court recommendation
· The facility for the registration of employment agreements to which there are only the subscribing parties, as was in place previously (and therefore not legally binding beyond the subscribing parties)
· Enforcement and compliance measures, consistent with the new Workplace Relations Bill
Such legally supported frameworks are recognised under European Union law and they ensure, in accordance with the Posted Workers Directive, that contractors from outside the jurisdiction, who may be using employees from lower wage economies, do not obtain an advantage over local contractors in terms of wage costs.
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