Following the recent High Court Case new proposals in relation to JLC/REA's have been made by the government:
24-Nov-10 at 18.17 | Resolve HR Admin
Following today's decision to reduce the Minimum Wage rate to €7.65. The Government has signalled that the ERO and REA rates should be reviewed. In particular the Catering,...

Blog

08-Jul-09 at 12.42

Electricians strike, whats going on?

By Enda Mc Guane

The news headlines over the last few days have been dominated by the electricians strike which has been caused by a dispute over the Registered Employment Agreement (REA) rates of pay. Here at the Resolve HR Blog we looked previously at the JLC and REA system, so this week we want to focus on the area of industrial action and strikes, specifically the taking out of court injunctions to restrict picketing. Both Cadburys and Diageo have taken interim injunctions against the TEEU stopping the union from picketing their sites.

 

The Industrial Relations Act 1990, IR Amendment Act 2001 and the IR (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 sets out basic provisions regarding trade disputes and confers certain protections to unions and their members from prosecution as a result of peaceful industrial action i.e. Picketing, Work to Rule. Prior to the introduction of the 1990 IR Act it was relatively easy for a business threatened with industrial action to get a court injunction restraining industrial action. (An injunction is basically a court order compelling a person to take, or restricting a person from taking a certain course of action.) During the 1980's interim injunctions would have been relatively common occurrences. However during the Celtic Tiger Boom trade disputes and associated industrial action almost completely disappeared.So before looking at the current situation we will briefly review the types of injunctions commonly associated with trade disputes and industrial action:

 

  1. Interim Injunction - Temporary and short term until an interlocutory injunction can be made. The employer can apply to the court for an interim injunction without informing the trade union or employees and they do not have to be in court for the injunction to be granted.
  2. Interlocutory Injunction - Lasts until a formal trial takes place. It is granted after a short hearing with both parties to the dispute present in court.
  3. Permanent Injunction - This can last indefinitely and is granted after a full trial.

 

The 1990 IR Act greatly restricts an employers' ability to get an interim injunction, once the union meets the following criteria:

  •  A secret ballot has been conducted in accordance with the trade unions rules.
  • The ballot is in favour of industrial action i.e. Pickets, Work to Rule
  • The trade union gives the employer no less then one weeks notice of the industrial action.
  • The trade union or employees are attempting to further a trade dispute and that a fair case has been established.

 

In seeking their injunction Cadburys argued that they had not received one weeks notice of the industrial action and that a proper ballot had not been conducted. While Diageo based their argument on the fact that they were not made aware of any trade dispute by the TEEU. The Diageo interim injunction was granted for 24 hours and a further hearing is due to be held today, where the TEEU will argue against the granting of an interlocutory injunction. We would anticipate that the issue of secondary picketing would feature in Diageos argument. Secondary picketing involves the picketing of an employer other than the employer involved in the dispute. The 1990 IR Act only allows secondary picketing where the second employer has directly assisted the first employer to frustrate the industrial action. Diageo may argue that the TEEU members involved in the trade dispute are employed by a contractor and are not employees of Diageo. Therefore the pickets on the Guinness Brewery constitute secondary picketing and are unlawful, as Diageo has done nothing to assist the contractor in frustrating the strike.

 

The current dispute may be the first of many, as previously highlighted in the resolve HR Blog many employers feel that the JLC/REA system is out dated and restrictive. While the Trade Union movement view the system as essential to maintaining the wages and other terms and conditions of employment their members became accustomed to during the Celtic Tiger years. We await the outcome of today's hearing with some interest.