I thank Deputy O’Reilly for this important and timely question. I congratulate her on her appointment as Sinn Féin spokesperson for enterprise trade and employment. I look forward to tangling with her for the next two and a half years.
In June, the High Court found that SI 251/2019 was made outside of the powers of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015. It was also found that the legislative framework governing the sectoral employment process is unconstitutional. In the judge’s ruling, it is explained that this is because of the manner in which the process is delegated to bodies outside of these Houses and the lack of clear guidance regarding how to balance competing interests in drawing up sectoral employment orders. SI 251/2019 applied to the electrical contracting sector.
As set out in the House on Thursday, 9 July, following a discussion with the Minister of State, Deputy English, and consultation with the Attorney General, it was decided to appeal that judgment. Once the orders which must be completed by the High Court for this ruling to be given legal effect have been perfected, an appeal will be lodged in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court at the same time with a view to a leapfrog appeal directly to the Supreme Court. I appraised the Government of this matter at its meeting yesterday.
This is an area of legislation which has proven to be very litigious in the past 15 years, with significant constitutional issues being called into question. The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 was major legislation brought through by the last Government which sought to deal with those issues. We must now await the outcome of the appeal to understand where to go next with respect to this issue and before we commit to any further legislation.
The existing terms, conditions and contracts of employees in this sector stand. They cannot be unilaterally changed by employers. The situation is different for new entrants or for those changing employer but the terms, conditions and pay of those with existing contracts with their employers stand and cannot be reduced unilaterally by employers.