Howlin announces Legislative Changes to Industrial Relations in the Public Service.

Issued 29 October 2014

Brendan Howlin, TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform today secured the agreement of his Cabinet Colleagues to legislative amendments in relation to the conduct of industrial relations in the public service.

The first amendment is the deletion of Section 2B of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) Act 2009. Section 2B was inserted in to the FEMPI 2009 Act by the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2013 as a limited contingency measure in the event no collective agreement was concluded with staff associations and trade unions following the negotiations leading up to the Haddington Road Agreement. This section would have, should the need have arisen, allowed public service employers to take steps that would impact on non-core pay and working hours of staff in their organisations to effect savings. In the event, the public service unions and associations signed up to the Haddington Road Agreement which has produced a significant dividend to the public finances while, crucially, maintaining industrial peace. The removal of Section 2B is in recognition that any requirement for this measure has now passed.

All other provisions provided for under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts 2009-2013 remain in place and form a continuing necessary component of the fiscal consolidation programme to achieve and maintain the general government deficit target of below 3 per cent of GDP.

The second amendment is to Section 23(3) (a) of the Industrial Relations Act 1990 by the deletion of ‘(other than established civil servants within the meaning of the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1956 )’. This amendment will, subject to designation by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, provide access for established civil servants to the normal industrial relations machinery of the State, being the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court (and the soon to be established Workplace Relations Commission). Currently, civil servants, unlike the majority of workers in the State, avail of a Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme.

This is an enabling measure, and any actual changes to procedures will only be undertaken in consultation with all stakeholders, including the relevant civil service unions, the LRC and Labour Court (Workplace Relations Commission) as necessary.

The amendments will be tabled next week at Committee Stage of the Workplace Relations Bill 2014 which is currently before the Houses of the Oireachtas for consideration.