Supreme Court hears appeal in crucial case for sectoral bargaining

COLMAN HIGGINS

At a vital Supreme Court hearing for the future of sectoral wage bargaining, it was argued by the State that applying minimum pay and conditions across a sector is consistent with European social policy.

The State is appealing a High Court ruling that struck out the part of the 2015 Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act that underpins Sectoral Employment Orders (SEOs).

Up to the High Court ruling by Mr Justice Garrett Simons last June, these existed in electrical contracting, mechanical contracting and general construction, covering almost 100,000 workers. The electrical contracting SEO was struck out, but a stay was placed on the striking out of the other two, pending the Supreme Court appeal.

Attorney General Paul Gallagher argued at the Supreme Court this week that the 2015 legislation was different to the previous legislation on sectoral bargaining that had been struck out by the Supreme Court in the McGowan case in 2013, in that it set out clear criteria by which the Labour Court could make decisions on sectoral pay and conditions.

He said that many other EU countries provided for sectoral pay and conditions and under the Posted Workers’ Directive, workers posted from one EU member state to another had to be paid the sectoral wages for the state in which they were working.

The State was also represented by Oisín Quinn SC and Eoin Carolan SC and they were instructed by John Boyle of the Chief State Solicitor’s Office.