The Government is committed to reform of the State’s existing Workplace Relations Services. The system that developed over the last eighty years had become unwieldy and complex and was no longer fit for purpose. Indeed, there was universal acceptance of the need for a root-and-branch reform of the existing structures.
My objective is to deliver a world-class workplace relations service which is simple to use, independent, effective, impartial, cost effective and provides for workable means of redress and enforcement, within a reasonable period of time.
A new two-tier Workplace Relations structure will be established comprising two statutorily independent bodies replacing the current five. We will have a new single body of first instance to be called the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and a separate appeals body, which will effectively be an expanded Labour Court.
A significant amount of work has been completed on the preparation of the legislation which will give statutory effect to the new structures and associated processes. The Draft Scheme of the Workplace Relations Bill has been approved by Government for priority drafting. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel has assigned resources to ensure the earliest possible publication of the Bill and drafting is at an advanced stage. I intend to publish the Bill during the current Spring/Summer Dail session with a view to having the new structures in place during 2014.
The legislation will provide for the services of the Equality Tribunal, the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) to come together under the remit of the Workplace Relations Commission. The appellate functions of the EAT will be amalgamated into a reconfigured Labour Court.
Significant progress has also been achieved to date, in advance of the enabling legislation, insofar as the technological, structural, administrative and staffing changes required to underpin the Workplace Relations Reform Programme are concerned, including the following measures which have already been put in place:
- Transfer of the Equality Tribunal into my Department to be part of the WRC,
- Establishment of a Single Contact Portal (Workplace Relations Customer Service),
- Launch of a single Workplace Relations Complaint Form and e-complaint facility,
- Finalisation of a Staffing and Structures Plan,
- Design and launch of a single Workplace Relations website,
- Design and launch of a Single Adjudication and Appeals Decisions Database,
- Establishment of an Early Resolution Service,
- Finalisation of Adjudicator training and recruitment plans, and
- Implementation of enhanced technologies and business processes, including the completion of the procurement phase in relation to the design and commissioning of a Customer Relationship Management Solution.