The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2009 has just been published by the Government. The Bill stems from a commitment given by the Government to enhance the legal framework surrounding the operation of Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) and Registered Employment Agreements (REAs).

The ERO/REA procedures represent sectoral minimum pay systems for certain categories/classes of workers. Last year these systems were the subject of a number of constitutional challenges concerning their validity. As a result of this, the Government brought forward legislation designed to deal with alleged flaws in the existing system.

In order to achieve this, the Bill proposes numerous amendments to the existing legislative framework of EROs /REAs. It proposes new improved procedures together with clear and transparent policies to be taken into account by Joint Labour Committees when setting out proposals for EROs. By way of example, the Committee can take account of the prevailing economic circumstances and the prevailing commercial circumstances of employers. This is likely to be welcomed by employers. These provisions resonate, to a degree, with the provisions in the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 which allows the Minister to take account of the overall economic conditions in the State when setting the national minimum wage. The Bill in its current format does not go as far as to allow employers submit "inability to pay claims". However at the launch of the Bill, Minister Dara Calleary indicated that it may be appropriate, at some point, to bring the ERO/REA system in line with similar provisions in the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. A provision to this effect would undoubtedly be most welcome by employers particularly, in the current economic climate.

The Bill also proposes that future legislative effect for EROs/REAs will be made by Ministerial order and also provides for the Oireachtas to scrutinise the Orders themselves.

Comment

The Bill is likely to be welcomed by both employer and employee groups. The improved procedures and policies, which will apply to the creation of EROs/REAs, will hopefully fulfil the objective of securing their continued effective operation.