- Moderator: Colleen Cleary (CC Solicitors, Dublin, Ireland)
- The Hon. Ms. Justice Mary Laffoy (Justice of the Supreme Court of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland)
- Michael Doherty (Professor of Law, Maynooth University Department of Law, National University of Ireland, Kildare, Ireland)
- Bryan Dunne (Matheson, Dublin, Ireland)
This panel focused on three aspects of Irish law. The first is the Workplace Relations Commission. Established in 2015, this Commission consolidated six different uncoordinated agencies, and was the single most important institutional change in contemporary Irish work law. Before, forum shopping and multiple claims were common, because the various agencies’ jurisdiction was overlapping and not well defined. The Workplace Relations Commission is a single point of entry for all employment claims. One huge accomplishment is that the Commission hears 75% of cases within 5 months, and decisions are issued 6-8 weeks later. Procedural requirements for bringing a claim have been vastly simplified.
The second aspect of Irish law covers collective bargaining and strikes. Employers have no legal obligation to bargain collectively. In 2001, a new law provided that unions can apply to the Labor Court (an industrial relations tribunal, not a formal court) to force an employer to engage with them on specified issues such as pay and grievances. The practical effect was that the Labor Court’s decisions tended to set sectoral norms. In 2007, the Supreme Court significantly restricted the scope of the 2001 Act. In 2015, a new Act gave unions an ability to bring claims to the Labor Court arguing that a particular employer is outside of sectoral norms in pay and terms/conditions of employment. Few cases have been decided under this Act so far, and many issues have yet to be decided (e.g., how are sectors defined? What does it mean to be “outside” of such norms? What evidence should be used to establish whether an employer is paying outside sectoral norms?) There is no right to strike under Irish law, but there is such a right under EU law.
The third aspect of Irish law affecting employment is employment injunctions of the High Court. Interlocutory injunctions are the most common, and are temporary orders that maintain the status quo (e.g., requiring continued employment) until there is a full evidentiary hearing on the legal issue.