On January 3, the court issued its binding recommendation under the newly amended Industrial Relations Act which gives workers the right to collectively bargain even if their employer is non-unionised and the workers are denied representation.
The recommendation means the pay of 63 Siptu members employed by Freshway Foods in Dublin increases from their current €9.38 per hour to €11.50 per hour — the equivalent of the ‘living wage’ — by 2018.
In a statement issued to Industrial Relations News (IRN), Ibec said there was an “absence of any rationale” for a pay increase of 21.2% cumulative over 16 months.
“In the absence of any rationale around the structuring of increases at 7.5%, 7.0% and 6.7%, it appears that the Labour Court are attempting to influence policy on the adoption of the ‘living wage’ as defined by NERI — a trade union-funded research unit.”
Ibec said the living wage concept “has no status in Irish industrial relations and it is completely inappropriate for it to be used as part of any judgement”.
“This is very worrying in terms of the direction of the Labour Court and the ability to establish a credibly independent view of business costs/interests in their recommendations under this legislation,” it added.
In an IRN article, Ibec’s head of employer relations Maeve McElwee was said to be critical of how the question of comparator firms was dealt with by the Court. She told IRN that Ibec is concerned about the court’s reference to a ‘prepared food sector’.
She said she would also like to know the comparator firms used by the Court.
In response, Siptu referenced Ms McElwee’s role with the Workplace Relations Commission.
Siptu’s Gerry McCormack, said: “The fact that a member of the WRC Board, which as part of its functions is to promote and encourage compliance with relevant employment legislation, would come out and publicly attack the Labour Court is extremely disappointing. As a consequence, Maeve McElwee, who as well as serving on the WRC Board is the head of industrial relations for Ibec, should consider her position.”