Joint Labour Committees [JLCs]

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 19 October 2016
Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite
Issues covered:

Joint Labour Committees [JLC’s] determine terms and conditions of employment for workers in particular sectors and are legally binding.  JLC’s are in place in Ireland since 1946 and cover approximately 200,000 workers.   The various agreements on pay and conditions made by Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) are known as Employment Regulation Orders (EROs).

In July 2011, the High Court ruled that the JLC system was unconstitutional in the case of John Grace Fried Chicken Ltd & Others v The Catering Joint Labour Committee & Others. The abolition of the JLC’s in July 2011 has left retailers on tenterhooks awaiting the recommendations.  Following the High Court decision, all ERO’s also ceased to have statutory effect from 7th July 2011.

When Richard Bruton was appointed as the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his aim was to reform the JLC system. In 2012 the government introduced legislation to facilitate JLC review. The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 reformed the Joint Labour Committees' wage-setting mechanisms and came into force on 1st August 2012. Under the Act, the Labour Court adopts an Employment Regulation Order (ERO) drawn up by a Joint Labour Committee. The ERO is given statutory effect by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Section 41A of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 provides for JLC Review once every 5 years. In October 2013, the Labour Court Report was published.  10 JLC’s existed at that time.  This review by the Labour Court was then considered by the Minister.  Mr Bruton had two options:  reject or accept recommendations of the Labour Court for amending the Establishment Order for each JLC. Since the publication of the Report, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton has reiterate his commitment to retain and reform JLCs.

On January 29th 2014 Mr Bruton then signed an order giving effect to recommendations from the JLC Review.  The order provides for the abolition of 2 JLC’s bringing the number of JLC’s to the current 8:

Dublin Hotels, Law Clerks. For amendments to be made to the existing Establishment Orders; Contract Cleaning, Hairdressing, Hotels [Outside Of Dublin and Cork], Security.

  • The Security Industry was the first industry to put forward a new draft ERO under the new system outlined in the 2012 Act.  Key changes include a minimum remuneration of €10.75 per hour, public holidays payable in line with the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, a non –contributory personal attack benefit. This ERO took effect from the 1st October 2015.
  • The Contract Cleaning JLC formulated proposals for fixing the minimum remuneration and working conditions of workers and this ERO took effect from the 1st October 2015. The Order applies to ‘workers employed by undertakings engaged in whole or in part on the provision of cleaning and janitorial services in, or on the exterior of, establishments including hospitals, offices, shops, stores, factories, apartment buildings, hotels, airports and similar establishments.’ It is estimated that there are approximately 30,000 workers covered by the ERO. Key changes include a minimum remuneration of €9.75 per hour, set overtime rates paid after 44 hours worked Monday to Sunday, a sick pay scheme 20% of basic weekly rate for up to 6 weeks in any one rolling year with a contribution of 0.5% basic rate of pay for all employees and a Death-in-Service benefit of €5,000.
  • Despite the strong indications from the Minister that the Grocery and Allied Trades JLC will be retained nothing has been forthcoming which leaves the retail sector in Ireland uncertain as to the future of the JLC in the sector.
  • TheJLC governing agriculture was established under primary legislation and would require new primary legislation for change to occur.  The Department for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is liaising with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine about this.
  • The Minister outlined that the scope of the catering JLC’s are not being amended. He rejected proposals from the review to alter these.
  • There is no current update on the hairdressing and hotel JLC’s.

Business in Ireland is regaining its confidence and reinstating the JLC’s could have a detrimental effect on the labour costs in sectors that need a chance to recover and grow.  The cost for employers potentially on the horizon in addition to the Labour Courts first recommendation under the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 is of concern to employers. The recommendation, which can become legally binding on the employer, allowed for higher terms and conditions within sectoral groups than the current conditions experienced by employees. The JLC’s are arguably not responsive to changing economic needs nor promote job creation. Workers are already protected by national primary legislation of which there are 40 pieces including minimum wage legislation.

From being deemed unconstitutional to reinstatement, the JLC roundabout continues for employers.

This article is correct at 19/10/2016

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Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite

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