Fine Gael TD for Galway West & Mayo South

PQ No. 28 – 23rd January – Progress at implementing new Workplace Relations System

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding plans for the creation of a new workplace relations system; when he expects the Work Place Relations Bill to be published; and when the new system will commence its work at resolving workplace disputes.

– Seán Kyne

R E P L Y:

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Bruton):

As the Deputy may be aware I have engaged in extensive public consultation in framing my proposals for a radical reform of the State’s Workplace Relations Services.

There is universal acceptance of the need for root-and-branch reform of the existing structures and processes which have evolved in an ad hoc fashion over the last eighty years. These deficiencies have given rise to, among other matters, complexities for practitioners and users of the service, multiple points of entry to the system, forum shopping, long delays in scheduling hearings and issuing decisions.

My objective is to deliver a world-class workplace relations service which is simple to use, independent, effective, impartial, cost effective and provides for workable means of redress and enforcement, within a reasonable period of time.

A two-tier Workplace Relations structure will be established comprising two statutorily independent bodies i.e. a single body of first instance to be called the Workplace Relations Commission and a separate appeals body, which will effectively be an expanded Labour Court.

A significant amount of work has been completed on the preparation of the legislation which will give statutory effect to the new structures and associated processes. The Draft Scheme of the Workplace Relations Bill has been approved by Government for priority drafting. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel has assigned resources to ensure the earliest possible publication of the Bill and drafting is underway. My intention is to publish the Bill as early as possible during the Spring/Summer Dail session 2014 with a view to having the new structures in place during 2014.

The legislation will provide for the services of the Equality Tribunal, the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) to come together under the remit of the Workplace Relations Commission.  The appellate functions of the EAT will be amalgamated into a reconfigured Labour Court.

Significant progress has also been achieved to date, in advance of the enabling legislation, insofar as the technological, structural, administrative and staffing changes required to underpin the Workplace Relations Reform Programme are concerned, including the following measures which have already been put in place:

– Transfer of the Equality Tribunal into my Department to be part of the WRC

– A Single Contact Portal,

– An e-complaint facility,

– Staffing and Structures Plan,

– Workplace Relations website,

– Early resolution service,

– Enhanced technologies and processes including a request for tender for the procurement of a world-class customer relationship management solution which was published in December last year. This solution will underpin and support effective and efficient service delivery,

– Arrangements for the recruitment, selection and training of adjudicators and the rationalisation of accommodation and hearings venues are at an advanced stage.