The Exceptional Collective Redundancies legislation*  has been extended for a further three years to 7 May 2016. The Act is designed to prevent a number of existing workers being made redundant and being replaced by cheaper workers.

The operation of the Act, which was implemented in 2007, has now been extended on two occasions. The Act makes provision that the Minister, upon requests from IBEC and unions, can extend the operation of the Act at the end of each three year period. 

The extension means that where a collective redundancy is thought to be an exceptional collective one, a referral can be made to a Redundancy Panel. If the Panel decides that the matter constitutes an exceptional collective redundancy it may then request that the Minister can refer the matter on to the Labour Court.

This legislation was introduced in 2007 on foot of the fall out of the Irish Ferries on land situation. To date there have been very few cases referred under the legislation with the most noteworthy being the Labour Court opinion in the Peel Ports (Marine Terminals Limited) case. In this case, which was ultimately deemed not to constitute an exceptional collective redundancy, the Court gave useful guidance on what might come within the ambit of the Act, including a situation whereby an employer tries to pressurise employees to accept inferior terms and conditions of employment using the threat of dismissal as the means to seek compliance. The Court commented that this could constitute an exceptional collective redundancy as the employer would have to replace those workers dismissed for not accepting a pay cut.

It remains to be seen whether the extension of the Act for a further three years will see any further determination of situations deemed to constitute an exceptional collective redundancy.

* Protection of Employment (Exceptional Collective Redundancies and Related Matters) Act 2007