Saturday 20 January 2018

Union dismay as wage protection scrapped

Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

The Government must introduce laws protecting wage contracts for low earners after the High Court ruled they were unconstitutional, a trade union has warned.

Siptu said the judgment was devastating news for those on low pay as it had stripped away the only protection they had on their wages.

Patricia King, Siptu vice president, warned the union would do all in its power to defend workers whose wages are targeted, including strike action.

"Today's High Court judgment removes the only protection low-paid workers had on their wages and conditions and is absolutely devastating news for them," Ms King said.

"It will also be very bad news for good employers who have tried to the right thing by their employees.

"It's the case of all their birthdays coming at once for the most unscrupulous employers in the State who are now free to plunder the wage packets of poorly-paid workers."

Jobs minister Richard Bruton is examining ways to rewrite the wage contracts known as Joint Labour Committees, including Sunday premium rates, Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements.

The High Court action was taken by the Quick Service Food Alliance in the name of chairman, John Grace, who runs a food outlet in Cork.

The QSFA claimed the JLC system was unconstitutional, arbitrary and unfair.

Mr Grace said: "There is already a national minimum wage and there are 25 other pieces of legislation protecting employees' rights. The JLCs were totally arbitrary, unfair and are now unconstitutional.

"We are satisfied the current system of setting minimum rates of pay by JLCs was a serious impediment to job creation and job retention.

"This High Court decision is one that will pave the way for increased employment in a number of sectors, not just catering."

The QSFA represents more than 200 businesses across the country.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland called on the Government to immediately abolish JLCs.

It claimed Sunday Premium Payments had caused 40% of restaurants to close.

Adrian Cummins, chief executive, said: "The High Court has proven that what the Restaurants Association of Ireland has been saying for the last two years is 100% correct, that these anti-business Joint Labour Committees were not constitutionally sound."

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