The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton recently signed establishment orders for new Joint Labour Committees (JLCs). The signing of the Orders for new JLCs does not in itself set minimum pay and conditions. Rather, however, it puts in place the sectoral bodies which will have the power to agree the minimum standards for certain low paid sectors. The six sectors involved are hospitality, retail, catering, contract cleaning, security and agriculture.
The backdrop to the new establishment orders was a High Court decision in July 20111 in which the Court found that the JLC system of setting wages was unconstitutional. As a result of the decision, the seventeen Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) in place at the time ceased to have statutory effect and could not be enforced. In order to deal with the constitutional deficiencies identified in the case, the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 was subsequently introduced. The Act sets out the policies and principles that must guide, inform and direct the exercise of the delegated power in the legislation particularly in relation to JLCs (who set EROs).
As a result of this, these new JLCs are more restricted in their powers to set minimum pay and conditions than the old JLCs which operated before the constitutional challenge in July 2011. The new Orders have to take into account a range of economic factors and whilst they can still make EROs that set minimum pay and conditions for a particular sector, the EROs are subject to approval by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and must also be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas before being enacted.
The reintroduction of the JLC process is a part of a strategy to reduce the number of JLCs in total and also improve Ireland's competitiveness by enhancing wage flexibility whilst at the same time ensuring adequate protection for workers in these lower paid sectors.