STATUTORY MINIMUM WAGES IN ADDITION TO THE NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE
The Industrial Relations Acts of 1946 to 2012 encompassed two parallel items of legislation where specific wage rates for certain categories of the work force could be determined by secondary legislation. These pay rates were, once prescribed, deemed to replace the contractual specifics related to those affected workers. Statutory minimum rates of pay which were in excess of the national minimum wage could thus be specifically determined under this legislation. However, at this point in time these provisions are subject to examination because of the outcomes of recent cases heard in the high courts.
Registered employment agreements, (REAs)
The Industrial Relations Act 1946 outlined a procedure in which trade unions and employers could come up with “employment agreements” which articulated definite pay rates for affected workers. These agreements could be made between employers and single workers or entire sections of the workforce – for example construction workers and electrical contractors. Once they had been negotiated, the agreements could be formally registered by the Labour Court and consequently become a registered employment agreement (REA).
This system was refined by the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act of 2012. However, just one year later the system was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The Government has since indicated that it will soon replace the REA system with new legislation.
Joint labour committees, JLCs
The Act of 1946 also formulated a procedure where joint labour committees (“JLCs”) were formed to oversee the rates of remuneration for employees in specific sectors of the workforce.
These committees were chaired independently and comprised of delegates from employers and trade unions. Their brief was to devise draft orders of fair rates of pay. When accepted by the Labour Court these became employment regulation orders (EROs)
The joint labour committee system was also deemed as unconstitutional by the High Court in 2011. An alternative version of the system was created in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act of 2012. Here current JLCs were examined by the Labour Court, resulting in the abolishment of some of them. JLCs continue to operate in sectors such as catering, contract cleaning, security, retail grocery and hotels (outside of the cities of Dublin and Cork). It is likely that surviving JLCs may soon begin the statutory procedure which may lead to the establishment of new employment regulation orders (EROs) to ascertain the legitimate minimum rates of pay for those relevant sectors.
Consequences of REAs and EROs which were abolished
At this point in time, no valid ERO or REA currently survives; they were rendered redundant by the legislation previously outlined. This said, affected members of the work force workers may consolidate contractual rights to benefit from agreed rates of pay which they had received before the litigation was enacted. Loopholes may exist, however and clearly this is an area which needs to be addressed as a matter of some urgency.