Thursday, 19 May 2022
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
3. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the intervention he can make in the case in which recommendations by the third-party industrial relations machinery of the State are being ignored by State-funded, contracted organisations. [25328/22]
I raise the issue of an employee of a State-funded, contracted organisation who may have taken and won a case at the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, but who has not received an award due to the inability of the State-funded, contracted organisation to pay the award. The award is not being paid by the organisation. There is no budget or funding for this. Can a solution be found?
It is important to emphasise that Ireland's system of industrial relations is essentially voluntary in nature and that responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes between employers and workers rests in the first instance with the employer, the workers and their representatives. The State provides the industrial relations dispute settlement mechanisms to support parties in their efforts to resolve their differences.
The WRC and the Labour Court are independent offices of our Department. Recommendations arising from the WRC and the Labour Court are not legally binding. Therefore, the State cannot compel a party to comply with a recommendation. While I would strongly encourage parties to comply with recommendations, the ultimate responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes between employers and workers rests with the employer, the workers and their representatives. I hope it clarifies the position for the Deputy. I am sorry that I did not hear all of what he said. There was an issue with the sound.
I was saying that it is a State-funded, contracted organisation. A case was taken against it at the WRC. The person won the case. The organisation did not have the money to pay, because it was not in its budget. That was the basis of the question. It is a simple workers' rights matter. It is probably not on the radar of the Minister of State or Minister, so we wanted to raise it. The overall objective of the WRC is to deliver a world class workplace relations service and employment rights framework for employees and employers.
Situations have arisen where the WRC has been totally disrespected. This has happened where workers have taken a case against an employer that is wholly funded by the State and the situation unfolds is that the workers involved take a case to the WRC, win it and receive an award of monetary compensation. They then seek that compensation from the State-funded employer. However, the company does not have the money to pay it because of how it is funded. As I said, there is a failure here to respect the work and remit of the WRC. It is unfair and disrespectful to the worker who was wronged and won the case. In most cases, the employer wants to pay the compensation but simply cannot afford to do so. In other cases, employers never learn because they do not feel the financial implications of their wrongdoing.
I thank the Deputy. I am sorry I could not hear at the start. There was an issue with the sound. I know the Deputy has not named the case. I am not familiar with it because the details relating to it were not provided with the question.
It is a number of cases. The system is not legally binding. We urge all parties to these cases to honour the recommendations if they can and to follow the advice. That is how it works best. The arrangement has served us well over the last years. In these disputes, the recommendation comes from the WRC and Labour Court and should be followed as well as possible in most cases. We would always encourage that. The funding of any State-funded organisation is a matter for the Minister with responsibility for the area in question. I am not familiar with the case to which the Deputy referred, but Ireland's system of industrial relations is essentially voluntary in nature. Responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes between employers and workers rests with the employer, in the first instance, and with the workers and their representatives. If it is an issue of funding, it should be discussed with the relevant Department and line Minister.
The Deputy inquired about the recourse available to an employee if an employer fails to act on a decision from the WRC or the Labour Court. The Workplace Relations Act 2015 provides that if an employer in proceedings relating to a complaint or dispute referred to an adjudication officer under employment rights legislation fails to meet the terms of the decision within 56 days, there is recourse to the District Court.
It is important to emphasise that I am not raising just one case.
Several people have taken unfair dismissal cases to the WRC, have won that case and then the organisation, which is a fully-funded State organisation, did not have the resources to pay out. In view of these situations, what does the Minister advise the WRC to do in instances where it is making awards that are not being respected? Will he meet with the WRC and trade unions on this matter so a solution can be found? It is not a huge issue but it is affecting a number of people. The Minister of State is probably not aware of it himself. I do not mean that in a disrespectful way. I wanted to flag it here as it has happened in a number of organisations that are totally State funded.
We have been very clear here. We should respect the advice and guidance of the WRC. We encourage that. Naturally we ask all parties to do that and we do that on a regular basis be it public or private organisations. I am not familiar with the situations the Deputy is raising. If it is a funding issue it has to be directly raised with the Minister or Department with responsibility for the agency or organisation. I am happy to work with the Deputy on that. I do not have the details and am not going to try to comment on something I am not aware of because there is always more to the story. Naturally we ask that everyone would respect the WRC. It has served the country well. Our industrial relations operations are very well respected in general, have served us really well and do provide solutions in many cases. I ask that all play their part. If there is a particular case the Deputy wants to raise with me I am happy to speak to him.