Mechanisms to resolve industrial disputes in situations where collective bargaining arrangements are not in place were considered by a high level group established under Partnership 2000 and comprising representatives from IBEC, ICTU, and various Departments and agencies and chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach. This group recommended that two distinct procedures be put in place; a voluntary procedure and a legislative fall back procedure. These recommendations were implemented through SI 145 of 2000, the Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice on Voluntary Dispute Resolution) (Declaration) Order 2000, and the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001. This Act gave new dispute settling powers to the Labour Court in cases where no arrangements for collective bargaining are in place.
During the recent negotiations between the Government and the social partners on the national agreement, Sustaining Progress, the need to enhance the effectiveness of these procedures was agreed. A number of measures, which will result in significant improvements to the existing procedures, will be put in place. The measures include the introduction of an overall time frame of 26 weeks with provision for a maximum of 34 weeks, where necessary, for processing cases, a prohibition on victimisation and the provision of a mechanism for the processing of complaints of victimisation including for redress where appropriate. The Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2003, which has completed Committee Stage in the Dáil, the amended code of practice on voluntary dispute resolution and the introduction of a new code on practice on victimisation give effect to these measures.