JLC 2014 – An uncertain future ahead
Our guest columnist, Caroline McEnery, managing director of The HR Suite, explains the changes that have taken place in the JLC structure over the past few weeks and why she believes it is bad for business
18 February 2014
On 29 January 2014 Minster Bruton signed an order giving effect to recommendations from the JLC Review. The order provides for the abolition of two JLCs – Dublin Hotels and Law Clerks and for amendments to be made to the existing Establishment Orders; contract cleaning, hairdressing, hotels [outside of Dublin and Cork] and security. He also discussed the JLC governing agriculture which was established under primary legislation and which would require new primary legislation for change to occur. The Department for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is liaising with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine about this. The minister stated that he does not intend to alter the scope of the retail and catering JLCs. Therefore there will be no distinction between symbol groups and independent retail businesses as recommended by the recent Labour Court review.
Here at The HR Suite we are firmly opposing the reinstatement of the JLC outdated agreements and expect this process will receive further challenges this year. JLCs had been in place in Ireland since 1946, covering 200,000 workers, but were abolished in July 2011. In 2012, the government introduced legislation to facilitate JLC review and in October 2013 the Labour Court Report on JLCs was published.
In this debate, it’s important to remember that Irish employees’ rights are enshrined in law. Employees are very well protected under national primary legislation which is divided across over 40 different pieces of law. In our opinion, JLCs will only lead to additional costs for employers that are unnecessary as well as hindering job creation and economic growth. The HR Suite will continue to lend our support to the campaign to abolish all JLCs with the aim of giving Irish businesses a chance to get back on their feet and achieve growth once again.
Following the government’s decision to introduce legislation to facilitate JLC review, the Labour Court’s report was published in October 2013. This review by the Labour Court was then considered by the minister. At this time the key concerns were highlighted including the likely additional costs for employers and the lack of flexibility in responding to changing economic factors, leading to less jobs being created. Although the idea to apply the retail agreement to symbol groups only has been dismissed; a retail JLC agreement being reinstated in any form will mean a lack of consistency and fairness in establishing regulations which govern pay and conditions of work in Ireland. Retailers are already faced with an increase in wage costs this year as the reduced PRSI rate for employees earning less than EUR*356 was abolished in January. This will mean increased costs for all retailers since many employees earn less than EUR*356. This extra cost alone this year could lead to redundancies or reduced hours in many stores. It is apparent that these factors have not been taken into account by the minister when considering the reinstatement of the retail agreements.
Considering Minister Bruton’s announcement last month, Employment Regulation Orders will now need to be negotiated and agreed by employer and employee representatives from each sector before they come into effect. Recommendations will be presented by both sides and will have to be put forward and justified to the Labour Court. This will set minimum pay, conditions and agreed work practices for each sector/industry. The previous EROs will have no foundation or basis, meaning the last JLCs that were in place will be considered null and void. The process is expected to take most of 2014 – if they are not faced with challenges again before that.
Business in Ireland is just beginning to regain its confidence and we believe that reinstating the JLCs could have a detrimental effect on the labour costs in sectors that need a chance to recover and grow.
Caroline McEnery of The HR Suite specialises in HR advice in the retail sector; contact Caroline on 0879694837 or email@example.com.
If you have any thoughts on how the reinstatement of the JLCs will have a positive or negative impact on the industry, please get in touch at Fionnualacarolan@mediateam.ie or 01 2947768.