50,000 workers in the construction sector were granted improved terms and conditions of employment from 19th October, 2017.
The improved terms and conditions include statutory minimum pay, improved pension and sick pay entitlements. The backgournd to the improved conditions and the minimum rates of pay are set out in an Order called “Sectoral Employment Order (Construction Sector 2017)”.
Category 1 Worker: €17.04 per hour
(General Operatives with more than one year’s experience working in the Sector)
Category 2 Worker: €18.36 per hour
(Skilled General Operatives, Scaffolders who hold an Advanced Scaffolding Card and who have four years’ experience, Banks operatives*, Steel Fixers, Crane Drivers and Heavy Machine Operators)
(*Banks operatives are more generally known as banksmen)
Craft Worker: €18.93 per hour
(Craft Workers in the following trades: Bricklayers/Stone Layers; Carpenters and Joiners; Floor Layers; Glaziers; Painters; Plasterers; Stone Cutters; Wood Machinists; Slaters and Tilers)
(Apprentices in the following trades: Bricklayers/Stone Layers; Carpenters and Joiners; Floor Layers; Glaziers; Painters; Plasterers; Stone Cutters; Wood Machinists; Slaters and Tilers)
Year 1: 33.3% of Craft rate
Year 2: 50% of Craft Rate
Year 3: 75% of Craft Rate
Year 4: 90% of Craft Rate
New Entrant Worker: €13.77 per hour
(General Operatives who are over the age of 18 years and entering the Sector for the first time).
The SEO also includes recommendations in relation to sick pay, pensions and unsocial hours payments.
The contract cleaning ERO 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.
Security Industry Workers
Workers in the security industry will see their basic pay rise to €10.75 per hour minimum. All overtime over 48 hours attract pay at a rate of time and a half.
The security industry ERO provides terms and conditions in respect of:
Hours of Work.
It applies to ‘security operatives’ meaning a person employed by a security firm to provide a security service for contract clients of that firm, or a service of a security or surveillance nature, the purpose of which is to protect persons and property.
Any breaches of an Employment Regulation Order may be referred to the Workplace Relations Commission for appropriate action.
Companies may be able to derogate from EROs in cases of financial difficulty, subject to meeting certain criteria.
Employment regulation orders (ERO) were held to be invalid by the High Court in 2011.
Registered employment agreements (REA) were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.
What are the implications of these decisions?
What has the government done?
What do they mean for employers and employees?
Let’s take a look.
Registered employment agreements (REA)
The parties to any agreement on pay and/or conditions of employment of any class or group of workers may apply to the Labour Court to have the agreement registered.
Once registered, it becomes legally enforceable, under civil and criminal law, and is directly applicable to every worker and his employer of the type, class, or group to which it applies-this includes those employers and employees who would not have been parties to the agreement.
The Labour Court will register it when it is satisfied that both employer and employee representatives want it registered.
Part III of the Industrial Relations Act of 1946 was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
There are approximately 70 registered employment agreements registered with the Labour Court covering industries such as contract cleaning, construction, electrical, retailing.
Employees who enjoyed terms and conditions under an REA up to 9th May, 2013 will continue to enjoy those terms and conditions thanks to their contract of employment. After that date employees who commence work are not covered by an REA but the ordinary employment legislation such as for minimum wage, rest periods, etc.
Joint Labour Committees and Employment Regulation Orders (ERO)
Joint labour committees can be set up by the Labour Court thanks to the Industrial Relations act, 1946. The purpose of JLCs was to regulate minimum rates of pay and conditions of employment in in a particular sector of industry or trade.
Once a JLC was approved by the Labour Court the JLC can submit proposals for an employment regulation order (ERO) setting down proposals for minimum rates of pay and terms and conditions.
The Labour Court, if it approves, can make an employment regulation order (ERO). The wages and terms and conditions in the ERO then become the legal minimum permitted in that trade or industry, regardless of whether or not they took part in the process.
There was EROs setting minimum pay and conditions of employment in sectors such as cleaning, hotels, hairdressing, security, catering, cleaning, retail, etc.
The consequence of this decision is that employers were no longer obliged to offer these terms and conditions to employees starting work after 7th July, 2011, although existing employees would enjoy the terms and conditions as a matter of contract, notwithstanding the striking down of the ERO which gave them those rates of pay and terms and conditions in the first place.
New legislation-Industrial Relations Amendment Act, 2012
These decisions prompted the decision to introduce new legislation in this area.
The government, in order to overhaul the JLC/ERO and the Registered Employment Agreement wage setting systems, and to make them fit for purpose, introduced the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 which came into law in August, 2012.
The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 provides, inter alia, for
The JLCs considering rates of unemployment and competitiveness when setting wage rates
Employers may seek an exemption, due to financial difficulty, from paying REA or ERO rates
JLCs have the power to set a basic adult rate and 2 other higher rates
According to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Such legally supported frameworks are recognised under European Union law and they ensure, in accordance with the Posted Workers Directive, that contractors from outside the jurisdiction, who may be using employees from lower wage economies, do not obtain an advantage over local contractors in terms of wage costs.
The above is a summary and is for information only-it is not legal advice. If you need advice in this area, contact a legal professional.
What follows is a general overview of industrial relations and trade dispute law in Ireland.
It looks at issues like
overview of industrial relations law,
how employers deal with trade unions and
how all these issues interact with employment/contract law/civil law in Ireland.
Irish Employment Law
Irish employment law is still based on the individual contract and trade dispute law is no exception.
In practice many terms and conditions of employment are negotiated between employers and trade unions on a collective basis.
Industrial Relations Acts and Industrial Relations Generally
Dispute resolution in Ireland is based on the structures created by the Industrial Relations Acts, 1946-1990 and is based on the concept of the parties voluntarily seeking to resolve their differences with the machinery being provided by the State.
However various public servants, members of the Defence forces, Gardai, officers of VECs, and teachers are not covered by the Industrial Relations Acts as they have their own conciliation and arbitration schemes being excluded as “workers” for the purpose of the Industrial Relations Acts.
Two common questions arise:
1. What is the legal position re collective agreements?
2. Can individual contracts of employment be varied by negotiations between trade union and employer?
Legality of Collective Agreements
The test to be applied as to whether a collective agreement between trade union and employer is legally enforceable or not is the objective test of whether the parties intended to create legal relations. (O’Rourke v Talbot (Ireland) Ltd 
The alternative is that the parties did not intend to create legal relations but came to an agreement based on optimistic aspirations to regulate their interaction on an orderly day to day basis.
Each case would be judged on its particular circumstances to ascertain what the intention of the parties was.
However the predominant view is that a collective agreement arising out of collective bargaining is not legally enforceable as Barrington J accepted that “generally speaking” such agreements did not contemplate legal relations. (However see Registered Employment Agreements below)
Individual Contracts of Employment
Individual contracts of employment can be varied or added to through negotiations and collective bargaining unless individuals have made it clear that they did not intend or wish to be bound by the change/addition.(Goulding Chemicals Ltd v Bolger, Supreme Court)
Registered Employment Agreements
Registered employment agreements are negotiated between trade unions and employer in a particular industry and are provided for in the Industrial Relations Acts. They can be registered with the Labour Court and once registered they are legally enforceable on employer and employees in the particular class of worker the subject of the agreement.
The Trade Union Acts 1871-1990 regulate the rules of trade unions and provide for a system of registration of trade unions. In return trade unions are protected from prosecutions for economic torts including anti-competitive practices such as attempting to fix wage rates.
An employee has a constitutional right to join a trade union; however he/she cannot insist that his/her employer recognise the union as the right to join is a personal right. An employee also has a right not to join a trade union under European law as the European Convention on Human Rights has been held to contain a ‘negative right of association’.
Even if the contract of employment does not contain a specific contractual provision that the employee’s trade union will be recognised there may be an implied right recognition where the employer is dealing with, or had dealt with, that trade union.
Recognition of the trade union could also be implied as a result of a course of dealing between the employer and trade union or as a result of custom and practice in that workplace.
Right to Strike
In Ireland there is no general right to strike; rather, there is a freedom to strike in certain circumstances which confers immunities from legal restrictions on industrial actions and strikes.
Trade disputes are provided for under the Industrial Relations Acts and are very broadly defined but Irish employment law is still based on the individual contract and trade unions are seen as supporters and advisers rather than leaders of collective action.
the expression “trade dispute” means any dispute or difference between employers and workers or between workers and workers connected with the employment or non-employment, or the terms of the employment, or with the conditions of employment, of any person;
This was amended by the Industrial Relations Act, 1990:
23.—(1) In the Industrial Relations Acts, 1946 to 1976, and this Part, “worker” means any person aged 15 years or more who has entered into or works under a contract with an employer, whether the contract be for manual labour, clerical work or otherwise, whether it be expressed or implied, oral or in writing, and whether it be a contract of service or of apprenticeship or a contract personally to execute any work or labour including, in particular, a psychiatric nurse employed by a health board and any person designated for the time being under subsection (3) but does not include—
(a) a person who is employed by or under the State,
(b) a teacher in a secondary school,
(c) a teacher in a national school,
(d) an officer of a local authority,
(e) an officer of a vocational education committee, or
The Industrial Relations Acts confer immunity on workers and their representatives only if they are acting “in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute”. This is known as the Golden Formula.
The preconditions to lawful industrial action are:
the immunities only apply to members and officials of authorised trade unions
if the dispute relates to an individual worker, any agreed procedures in the workplace or procedures normally availed of by custom or practice must be availed of first
if the industrial action or strike is to be supported by a trade union, a secret ballot must be held first.
The Acts also go on to set out various provisions re picketing, where picketing can take place, placards and documentation, secondary picketing, inducing or threatening a breach of contract, balloting and other matters.
The Labour Court can investigate disputes at the request of the parties-section 20 Industrial Relations Act, 1969– but the recommendations are not binding although both parties can undertake to accept the recommendation. If this occurs either party can sue the other to enforce the agreement on foot of a breach of contract. If the employer does not undertake to accept the recommendation it is not binding on them.
20.—(1) Where the workers concerned in a trade dispute or their trade union or trade unions request or requests the Court to investigate the dispute and undertake or undertakes before the investigation to accept the recommendation of the Court under section 68 of the Principal Act in relation thereto then, notwithstanding anything contained in the Principal Act or in this Act, the Court shall investigate the dispute and shall make a recommendation under the said section 68 in relation thereto.
(2) Where the parties concerned in a trade dispute request the Court to investigate a specified issue or issues involved in the dispute and undertake, before the investigation, to accept the recommendation of the Court under the said section 68 in relation to such issue or issues then, notwithstanding anything in the Principal Act or in this Act, the Court shall investigate such issue or issues and shall make a recommendation under the said section 68 in relation thereto and, for the purposes of this subsection, subsection (1) of the said section 68 shall have effect as if the references therein to a trade dispute included references to an issue or issues involved in a trade dispute.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in section 8 (1) of this Act, an investigation under this section shall be conducted in private and shall be given such priority over the other business of the Court as the Court considers reasonable.
Section 20 is often used when an employee is unfairly dismissed but does not have the requisite 12 months’ service under unfair dismissal legislation, and in disputes concerning union recognition.
However the Supreme Court decision in Ryanair v The Labour Court  has resulted in far fewer cases being taken under this new legislation. However it does provide a mechanism for employees who are not represented by a trade union to vindicate their employment rights.
The Labour Court
As the Labour Court is an industrial relations tribunal and not a court of law recommendations are not legally binding in relation to industrial relations matters (although they are empowered to make legally binding decisions when deciding appeals from equality officers under the Employment Equality Acts.)