The Labour Court regarding new minimum pay rates for the construction and electrical contracting sectors respectively on 10 May 2019 (the Recommendations). The Recommendations also provide for unsocial hours payments, terms for pension and sick pay schemes together with an amendment to the normal working hours of construction sector workers.

A draft of the construction sector SEO was considered by both Houses of the Oireachtas and is currently awaiting signing with pay increases, to come into effect from Autumn 2019. The electrical contracting sector draft SEO is delayed for legal action.
Increased Rate of Pay

These Recommendations, and the potential new SEOs Recommendations, follows the lodging of a claim by construction workers’ and electrical workers’ unions respectively in the Labour Court hearing March 2019.

A 12% pay increase for construction workers over the next three years, the Recommendations include a 2.7% pay rate increase for construction employees from 1 October 2019 and again from 1 October 2020 (i.e. 5.4% increase over two years) and a 2.7% pay rate increase for electrical contracting employees from 1 September 2019.

The CIF made a submission to the Labour Court on behalf of the ECA in support of the TEEU’s application for an SEO which states quite openly that it wants to remove labour costs as an area of competition between employers in the industry. The NECI cannot see how this helps the consumer and believes that it is anti-competitive. According to the CIF no public contract will be awarded unless an electrical contractor complies with the old REA rates although it is no longer legally binding as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in McGowan.

Working Hours
The construction sector SEO provides for 39 hours per week. This is a change for the sector.

Legal Challenge

National Electrical Contractors Ireland, an electrical contractors trade representative body, obtained an injunction against implementation of the Recommendations for an electrical in May and subsequently lifted by the High Court on 16 May.
The High Court has given the NECI leave to challenge the Labour Court’s plan to introduce a new binding pay agreement for the electrical contracting sector.

The NECI’s High Court proceedings have challenged the Labour Court’s decision to hold a private hearing into the TEEU’s application. The NECI called on the Labour Court to hold the hearing in public because it believes that there must be an open and transparent public discussion to canvas all views. The NECI is concerned that an SEO will be introduced behind closed doors without sufficient scrutiny. The NECI believes that there is no precedent for holding the hearing in private.

The NECI has applied to the High Court to examine the procedures adopted by the Labour Court to date. Section 15(1) of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 makes it clear what has to be done to ensure that any recommendation that the Labour Court might make to the Minister for Enterprise and Innovation is made in accordance with law. It can only do so when it is satisfied that the parties are representative of the industry and when it is satisfied what that industry actually is, but in this case the NECI is fearful that those important protections have not been observed.

The NECI has also asked the High Court to block the private Labour Court hearing scheduled for September until the High Court has examined the issue. The High Court has said that it will hear the NECI’s application for a stay on the Labour Court hearing on 28 August 2017. It will hear from the Labour Court and other parties on that date also.

Recently a similar examination took place for the Construction Industry and the Labour Court convened a private hearing on 26 June 2017 and had made a recommendation to the Minister within almost 2 weeks proposing an SEO for the construction sector. In that case a pay rise of 10% has been recommended. The NECI had asked to attend that hearing but was not permitted to do so by the Labour Court.
So it appears that the Construction industry will be held to the order but the Electrical Contractors will not be implemented.