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Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Seven Joint Labour Committees to be abolished

Only 6 out of the 13 current JLCs will survive – and while they “recognise” the “special position” of Sunday working, they can no longer set premium rates for it.

THE NUMBER OF Joint Labour Committees will be reduced from 13 to 6 under new reforms just announced.

Minster for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton has said that the this afternoon’s reforms will give a “radical overhaul” to the system of worker protection, as recommended in the Duffy Walsh report of last April.

Bruton has announced the following changes will take place:

  • The number of JLCs will be reduced from 13 to 6;
  • JLCs will no longer set Sunday premium rates – but the Government insists that the “special position of Sunday working will still be recognised” – this means that it will be governed across those sectors such as hospitality, security, restaurants etc. by existing employment legislation which currently provides protection for Sunday working across the entire workforce but, significantly, point 9 in the Government’s plan of action reads:
  • Legislating to remove provision for a Sunday Premium and other conditions of employment that are already covered by universally applicable standards established under legislation from the scope of EROs while preserving workers’ entitlements under Section 14 of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997.

    In order to support the rights of workers employed in sectors covered by JLCs in relation to Sunday working the Minister will exercise his right under statute to request the Labour Relations Commission to devise a new Code of Practice on Sunday Working (similar to the 1998 Code of Practice on Sunday Working in the Retail Trade) to provide guidance to employers, employees and their representatives in sectors covered by Employment Regulation Orders on arrangements that may be put in place to comply with the options specified at Section 14 of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997. This Code of Practice would subsequently be given the status of a statutory instrument by the Minister.

    The new legislation will refer to the new Code of Practice on Sunday Working and the Minister intends to advise JLCs that EROs applying in sectors characterised by Sunday working arrangements should include a reference, for information purposes, to the existence of this Code of Practice.

    An employee, their Trade Union or an employer would be able to bring a complaint to a Rights Commissioner about any breach of the Code of Practice governing Sunday working, and to appeal to the Labour Court in the event of non compliance with a decision of a Rights Commissioner]

  • JLCs had been setting over 300 different wage rates – they will now only be able to set a basic rate for adults “and two higher increments to reflect longer periods of service”;
  • Employers will be able to deviate from Employment Regulation Orders “in cases of financial difficulty” in the company
  • JLCs will have to take into account unemployment rates, competitiveness and wage trends in setting rates.

The  High Court ruled on 7 July that the Employment Regulation Order wage-setting mechanism was “unconstitutional”. The Government argued that this left workers vulnerable to a change in the terms and conditions of their employment, where previously an employer would have had to get an employee to agree to such changes. (This Q&A from is helpful in explaining the effect of the 7 July ruling).

Bruton said this afternoon that the ruling had “undermined the position of workers in these sectors” (ie, security, hospitality, restaurants, hairdressing etc.) and that the reform of the JLCs had become crucial because of that.

Chambers Ireland today said that it welcomed the reforms announced today, especially the decision that the remaining JLCs can no longer set Sunday premium rates – it will be “particularly welcomed by many struggling retailers”, said Ian Talbot, the business group’s CEO said.

Today’s announcement is to form the basis of employment legislation in the autumn, when the Dáil is back in session. Labour TD Gerald Nash claimed that the proposals would protect “the rights and incomes of those workers in sectors of the economy governedby these wage-setting mechanisms”.

However, MANDATE trade union has described the timing of the release of the proposals as “opportunist and cowardly” and an “attack on low-paid workers as the Dáil breaks for summer”. MANDATE’s General Secretary John Douglas said:

The agreement to scrap the Sunday premium pay for those covered by the Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) and the inability to pay clause will leave thousands of low-paid workers vulnerable to having their pay cut.

Read more: Joy and dismay follows ruling on setting pay for low-wage restaurant workers>

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