All construction related projects involving public expenditure must conform to Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Procurement Procedures. These procedures have included an obligation that the contractor ensures that the rates of pay and the conditions of employment, including pension contributions, comply with all applicable employment law, including Registered Employment Agreements (REAs) when engaged on public works contracts.
In the judgement delivered on 9 May last in McGowan and others v The Labour Court, Ireland and the Attorney General, the Supreme Court held that Part III of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 was invalid having regard to Article 15.2.1 of the Constitution.
That Article provides, in effect, that the exclusive power to make laws is vested in the Oireachtas. The Supreme Court took the view that REAs are instruments having the status of laws made by private individuals. While the Constitution allows for the limited delegation of law making functions, the provisions of the 1946 Act went beyond what is permissible under the Constitution.
The effect of this decision is to invalidate the registration of employment agreements previously registered under Part III of the 1946 Act.
This is an important issue for many employers and their employees, particularly in relation to rates of pay and tendering for contracts.
I intend as soon as possible to put in place legislation that will be fully informed by the Supreme Court judgment, but will introduce a revised framework to deal with these matters.