Labour Court – a sorry joke for workers

After the experience in recent years of Labour Court recommendations for enhanced redundancy or improved conditions being ignored by employers in cases such as Vita Cortex, Carroll’s Joinery, Coca Cola serious questions are being asked by workers about what if anything is this government prepared to do to protect workers’ rights.

This government, like its predecessors, like to counterpose the industrial relations machinery in this country as the best method of resolving disputes.

Clare Daly TD submitted a question  seeking figures for the amount of recommendations the Labour Court made in favour of workers in recent years and how often they have been disregarded. Incredibly this information was unavailable!

This behaviour by employers is not confined to the private sector. On three separate occasions in recent years the Labour Court has made recommendations over disputed measures in favour of staff in the National Museum of Ireland, a state agency. On each occasion the employer has ignored the recommendations.

The Labour Court made a recommendation for an enhanced redundancy for a former employee of the Irish Refugee Council and it was likewise ignored. Now the Irish Refugee Council is not a state agency but does receive state funding. Clare Daly TD raised this matter with the Minister of Justice. His short response included:

“However, it should be noted that were a Department to place more onerous obligations regarding Labour Court recommendations on a certain class of employer, i.e. non governmental organisations (NGOs), who are in receipt of Departmental grants, such grants given to help these NGOs in the provision of services it could instead end up financing, for example, redundancy payments on foot of Labour Court recommendations.”

This is a green light for employers both public and private sector to pay no heed to what the Labour Court recommends. Of course it’s a different matter when the Labour Court makes recommendations in favour of employers as its decisions can be legally binding on employees!

The position of the Socialist Party that justice is more often than not unobtainable for workers in the Labour Court is being borne out. Indeed, diverting struggles into the Labour Court can, particularly in redundancy situations, give employers time and opportunity to shut up shop making it more difficult for workers to defend their jobs or get a better settlement. In the final analysis the traditional methods of struggle including strike action is all we are left with in the face of the onslaught against jobs pay and conditions by the employers.