Legislation that allows for the setting of legally enforceable pay and conditions for thousands of workers has been ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.
That is a blow to many lower-paid workers, who will no longer benefit from enhanced pay rates and conditions secured through negotiation between employers and unions and enforced by legally binding sectoral employment orders (SEOs).
It is also an embarrassment to the Government, as the 2015 law was enacted to address flaws in the 1946 Industrial Relations Act, which, in 2013, was deemed unconstitutional.
People Before Profit TD Brid Smith described the ruling as a “declaration of war on any protections for workers” and an attack on the right of the Dáil to legislate to protect or enhance workers’ rights and pay.
But that ignores the fact that in his ruling, Mr Justice Garrett Simons found failings by both the Labour Court and the minister for business, enterprise, and innovation in the operation of SEOs.
It is also unfortunate that Ms Smith chose to launch so personal an attack on Judge Simons, suggesting that he had decided that competition was more important than a worker’s right to a decent wage.
The fact remains that even well-intentioned legislation may be found to breach the Constitution. It is now up to the incoming government to ensure that more robust legislation on workers’ rights is put in place.