On January 28th 2014, I signed Orders to give effect to recommendations of the Labour Court Review of the then 10 Joint Labour Committees (JLCs). The Review had its genesis in Section 41A of Industrial Relations Act 1946 (inserted by Section 11 of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012), which provides that reviews of each JLC be carried out by the Labour Court, as soon as practicable after the commencement of the Act, and at least once every 5 years thereafter.
Industrial Relations Officers of the Labour Relations Commission have been appointed to the positions of Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of seven JLCs, excluding Agriculture.
It is a matter for the Labour Court, under the Industrial Relations Act 1946, to ensure that equal numbers of representatives of workers and employers in the relevant sectors are on each of the JLCs. In this context, I understand that nominations have been received from employer and worker representatives for the Contract Cleaning and Security JLCs. Nominations are still awaited in respect of the other JLCs.
These Orders provide the framework within which employers and employee representatives can come together voluntarily and negotiate terms and conditions of employment for workers in their respective sector. In this regard, the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 introduced new provisions to establish the principles and policies to which a JLC must have regard when formulating proposals for Employment Regulation Orders. The new provisions will guide the formulation by JLCs of proposals on the fixing of remuneration and conditions of employment and will also provide for the regulation of the JLC’s own decision-making process.
For vulnerable workers, the advantage of JLCs is that they see fair terms and conditions such as wage rates, sick pay etc. agreed and given effect by an ERO, while for some employers, the advantage of the JLC system, based as it is on the principle of self-governance, means that they can agree and set minimum pay and conditions, agree on work practices which are custom-made to their industry – a flexibility which cannot be achieved by primary legislation. Where both parties to a JLC see commonality of purpose and outcome then an agreement may emerge.