In July 2011, the High Court handed down its landmark ruling on
Joint Labour Committees in the case of John Grace Fried Chicken
Ltd .v. Catering Joint Labour
Committee(10) regarding a
constitutional challenge mounted by members of the Quick Service
Food Alliance. The challenge concerned the right of the Catering
Joint Labour Committees (the "JLCs") and the Labour Court
to set minimum rates of pay and employment conditions for workers
in the catering industry. In effect, the Quick Service Food
Alliance were seeking to quash the current Employment Regulation
Orders and the entire JLC system. In his ruling, Mr Justice Feeney
declared, inter alia, that the delegation of the power to make
Employment Regulation Orders under the Industrial Relations Acts
1946 and 1990 to the JLCs and the Labour Court was
unconstitutional. The court found the Employment Regulation Order
was an unreasonable, unlawful and disproportionate interference
with property rights and the determination of rates of pay and
employment conditions had been undertaken in an arbitrary and
illegal manner in breach of property rights.
Whilst the ruling may not affect existing workers in areas
covered by the JLC system, depending on the particulars of their
contractual arrangements, it seems likely that employers will not
be obliged to pay JLC rates for employees recruited going forward,
and that such employees will, in many cases, be engaged on lesser
terms and conditions but subject to the National Minimum Wage Act
2000, and other relevant statutory minima. Pending legislative
reform in this area, therefore, employers will be permitted to pay
new employees the national minimum wage. On a practical level,
before taking any steps on foot of this decision, employers should
seek legal advice.
In response to the ruling, the government announced in July 2011
that the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation had drafted
legislation which would radically overhaul the existing JLC system.
In a press statement, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and
Innovation said that under the new system, JLCs will only set a
basic adult rate of pay and will no longer set Sunday premium
rates. The Heads of Bill have been agreed by Government and
communicated to the Attorney General. It is expected that the Bill
will be introduced shortly.
10.  IEHC 277
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