Tom Hayes writes: The Irish Parliament’s (Oireachtas) Employment Committee has scheduled a hearing on the Irish European Works Council legislation and disputes procedures for the morning of June 22. The Committee has invited SIPTU, the major Irish trade union, and BEERG to present evidence on the problems with the legislation as it currently stands.
When the legislation was drafted in 1996 it was anticipated that Regulations would be made setting out the details of how disputes between EWCs and central management were to be resolved. Because relatively few Irish multinationals came within the scope of the legislation, five or six at the most, and because just a handful of US-based multinationals based their EWCs in Ireland, most preferring the UK, there were never any disputes. So, there was never any pressure for the Regulations to be made.
Because of Brexit, there could be now over 100 EWCs based in Ireland. As we have previously reported, we know of a number of disputes bubbling up, involving the EWCs in the British Council, Verizon, and Kingspan. Following a complaint from SIPTU, the European Commission has also begun proceedings against the Irish government over deficiencies in the legislation.
When we in BEERG became aware that Brexit would mean many EWCs moving to Ireland, we wrote to the Irish Minister highlighting our concerns with the legislation. We also asked Kevin Duffy, the former chair of the Labour Court and a barrister, for an opinion on the matter. Kevin confirmed that the best approach would be to amend the legislation to allow for disputes to be referred for mediation to the Workplace Relations Commission, before being referred to the Labour Court for, first, a recommendation, and then, if necessary, a binding decision. Such a model already exists in the Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Act 2006 here.
A phased approach to dispute resolution would be preferable to what we have experienced in the UK, a jump from a dispute between an EWC/SNB and central management straight into court without any intermediary steps.
I plan to appear before the Committee in person on June 22. Should you have any comments or observations you would like to see us make to the Committee, email me at [email protected] We can also furnish members with contact details of the Oireachtas Committee members if you would like to contact them direct in support of our call for the deficiencies to be addressed.
The hearing will be livestreamed. We’ll circulate details near the event.