Ireland: Latest working life developments – Q2 2016

The in-coming government's commitments on pay, the resolution of the Dublin tram strike, and a pay rise awarded by the Labour Court are among the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Ireland in the second quarter of 2016.

Commitments of the Partnership Government

The Programme for Partnership Government (PDF), published in May 2016, outlines the commitments of the Partnership Government, made up of Fine Gael and independent TDs (Teachta Dála – members of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament). These include:

  • supporting an increase in the minimum wage to €10.50 per hour over the next five years;
  • implementing the Lansdowne Road Agreement (designed to reverse pay and pension cuts for staff in the public sector) in full and according to the agreed timetable;
  • establishing a Public Service Pay Commission to examine pay levels (including entry levels) across public service;
  • supporting the gradual, negotiated repeal of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts ‘having due regard to the priority to improve public services and in recognition of the essential role played by public servants’.

The government has also prioritised the enactment of legislation to introduce paid paternity leave.

Pay bargaining developments

Local pay bargaining continued in the second quarter of 2016 with agreements being reached in the agri-food, manufacturing, retail and semi-state sectors, amongst others. In addition, a number of applications were made for new sectoral employment orders to put in place legally binding pay and conditions in certain sectors.

Tram company dispute ends

A long-running pay dispute at the Dublin tram company, Luas, was resolved following the intervention of the Labour Court. Workers and management accepted a Labour Court recommendation. This followed a number of days’ strike action and other stoppages.

Labour Court awards pay rises

The Labour Court issued its first binding recommendation under the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015. Under the so-called ‘right to bargain’ legislation, the Court can impose binding terms and conditions where it can be demonstrated that the employer in question does not engage in collective bargaining with a recognised trade union. The Court awarded pay rises for members of the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) at the non-union owned food preparation company, Freshway Foods, bringing their pay up to €11.50 an hour (the equivalent of the ‘living wage’) within 18 months. The case is being closely assessed by employers, trade unions and the legal profession.

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