John Grace Fried Chicken Limited v The Catering Joint Labour Committee [2011]

Posted In: Case Law
  • Legal Body
    High Court of Ireland (IEHC)
  • Type of Claim / Jurisdiction
Issues covered: Joint Labour Committees, unconstitutional basis for setting minimum rates of pay and conditions of employment

Today’s article looks at the John Grace Fried Chicken case and how Employment Regulation Orders might once again become lawful in certain industries.

Case Name and Reference: John Grace Fried Chicken Limited, John Grace and Quick Service Food Alliance Limited v The Catering Joint Labour Committee, the Labour Court, Ireland and the Attorney General
Court or Tribunal: High Court
Jurisdiction/Subject Matter: Joint Labour Committees, unconstitutional basis for setting minimum rates of pay and conditions of employment

In a significant High Court decision, the employer Plaintiffs succeeded in the High Court in obtaining an order that certain provisions of the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 and 1990 are invalid, as they are unconstitutional. 

In particular, the employers also succeeded in obtaining an order deeming invalid the Employment Regulation Order made on the 12th May, 2008 (S.I. 142 of 2008), fixing the statutory minimum remuneration of catering workers outside greater Dublin.

Does this mean that all Employment Regulation Orders are invalid?

Any ERO containing similar provisions to SI 142 of 2008 in relation to minimum remuneration can be of no effect until new legislation is enacted. However, it does not mean an employer can automatically refuse to pay JLC terms and conditions. In particular, an employer needs to check whether such terms are incorporated into the employees’ contracts of employment, expressly or by implication.

The Government has stated that Government will address the weaknesses identified in the High Court judgment by the introduction of new legislation, which it says will be given the highest priority. The Government’s position is that the High Court ruling does not prevent the establishment under law of Joint Labour Committees for the purpose of setting minimum wage rates and terms and conditions of employment for vulnerable categories of low-paid workers, nor does it affect the operation of the 13 already established Joint Labour Committees. 

What has been declared to be invalid is the power of JLCs to make regulations in relation to remuneration and conditions, as well as the power of Labour Court to make EROs on foot of an application made by a JLC, and the enforcement of all the Orders in place up until now. 

New legislation can cure the problem because, in effect, the High Court accepted that EROs can be valid, provided the legislation on foot of which they are made sets out goals, standards, identifiable principles, Ministerial guidance, criteria and/or factors to be applied by the JLC and the Labour Court.

This article is correct at 29/09/2011

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Eamon Harrington
Comyn Kelleher Tobin

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