ELECTRICAL employers have failed in their High Court challenge to the legally binding system which sets pay and conditions of hundreds of thousands of workers in numerous industries across the economy.
The group of seven named electrical contractor bodies had claimed that, particularly in the electrical industry, the Registered Employment Agreement (REA) system was flawed.
They said the agreement in their industry, made through the Labour Court in 1990, had been hammered out between trade unions and only a minority of employers.
The contractors questioned whether those employers had been legally entitled to speak on behalf of all employers in the industry.
While the claim referred specifically to the electrical industry, if the court had ruled in the employers’ favour, it would have had an impact on every industry in which there is an REA.
Hundreds of thousands of workers in numerous industries, such as catering, hairdressing and construction, have terms set by REAs.
Delivering his ruling, Mr Justice John Hedigan said the electrical contractors had delayed excessively in taking judicial review proceedings against the Labour Court decision on the REAs and he said it was not possible to accept that the contractors had not been aware of the REAs for the sector, until relatively recently.
He also ruled the Labour Court was within its jurisdiction to decide to proceed with the REAs.
The Technical Engineering and Electrical Union, which represents 10,000 members in the electrical contracting sector, said Mr Justice Hedigan’s ruling was “a victory for common sense and decency”.
“It was also a very welcome endorsement for the Labour Court and vindication of its procedures,” said TEEU general secretary Eamon Devoy.
“We would appeal to employers, including this group, to use the tried and tested methods of dispute resolution through our voluntary system of industrial relations rather than waste everyone’s time and money taking confrontational cases to the courts.”
Denis Judge of National Electrical Contractors Ireland, one of the groups which took the court challenge, said the ruling would lead to job losses for electrical employees as their employers would not be able to go on paying the wage rates set by the REA.
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