Workplace Relations Commission announces an additional 5 new regional hearing venues
22nd March, 2017
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) today presented its first full year annual report to Pat Breen TD, Minister of State for Employment and Small Business.
Some of the main highlights of the WRC Annual Report are as follows:-
- Almost 15,000 complaints were processed by the WRC Adjudication Service
- €1.5 million in unpaid wages were secured for workers
- The addition of 5 new regional hearing venues during 2017
- 75% of Adjudication complaints are now heard within 5 months
Minister Breen welcomed the decision by the WRC to expand the number of its hearing venues through the addition of locations in Donegal, Mayo, Kerry, Monaghan and Kilkenny. “From a rural Ireland perspective, it is important that complainants and respondents do not have to travel long distances to have cases heard and this development is good news for everyone concerned.”
Turning to the Report itself, the Minister said that “the reasons for the setting up of the WRC are well known: to simplify the institutional framework from a user point of view, to speed up the delivery of decisions on individual complaints around employment and industrial relations matters, to bring about increased employer compliance with employment rights legislation while, at the same time, maintaining the exceptional ability of the bodies to resolve collective and individual disputes. This Report presents clear evidence that this decision was the right one.”
In this regard, the Minister pointed out that 75% of adjudication complaints are now heard within five months, whereas prior to the establishment of the WRC, complainants could be waiting two years for a hearing. “This is very important in terms of the speedy delivery of justice for all concerned and this outcome was a cornerstone of the reform process”.
He went on to say “I know that the WRC is working to bring about a situation whereby decisions on all complaints are issued within a six month period and this Report shows real progress towards achieving that goal.”
At the same time, the Minister noted that the Inspection arm of WRC had secured some €1.5 million for people in terms of unpaid wages and delivered increased compliance with employment legislation on the part of employers. “This work of the WRC often goes unnoticed, but for people who rely on Government bodies such as the WRC to make sure their rights are upheld it is a very important service".Minister Breen also expressed his thanks to the staff of the WRC for their continued hard work and dedication over the last twelve months.
Speaking at the launch, Ms. Oonagh Buckley, Director General of the WRC, acknowledged that the early stages of the WRC had proved challenging “but we are clearly on the right track in achieving our objective and that of the Government of being a world class workplace relations service”.
“We are second to none in terms of voluntary dispute resolution, we have put in place an adjudication service that processes almost 15,000 complaints a year – many of them complex and sensitive – within a shorter timeframe than was the case before our establishment. Every year we are reaching approximately 1 in 6 employees in the low wage sectors to ensure that employment rights are upheld and we are actively assisting employers and employees in delivering harmonious workplaces”.
Ms. Buckley concluded by saying “it is fair to say that this has not always been easy, but the support of the Minister and the Department, and indeed our stakeholders, has been central to our success to date”.
Speaking at the launch, Dr Paul Duffy, Chairman of the WRC Board, acknowledged the first full year annual report and is looking forward to working closely with the Commission in 2017.
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NOTES FOR EDITORS
Workplace Relations Commission
The Workplace Relations Commission was established on 1 October 2015 and the institutional reform represented perhaps the most far-reaching institutional legislative change in the area of employment and industrial relations since the setting up of the Labour Court in 1946 and that of the Labour Relations Commission in 1991.
Over the past 70 years, the workplace relations system had evolved in a piecemeal fashion in response to EU and domestic legislation and the changing nature of employment.
A process that was intended to be informal, accessible and noticeable for its speed of outcome, had become extremely complex and lengthy. While there were excellent and committed people working in the then workplace relations bodies, often with challenging workloads, the system had begun to collapse under its own weight and needed to be changed. Some of the criticisms of the framework included:
- five organisations with overlapping, but completely separate, objectives and operations, created a system that was so complex even experienced practitioners found it difficult to comprehend,
- the duplication of functions between the bodies resulted in “forum shopping” with potentially contradictory outcomes,
- delays in getting a hearing and decision were unacceptable, and,
- the framework delivered poor value for money overall for both the clients and the State.
In such light, the bringing together of the functions formerly delivered separately by the Labour Relations Commission, the Rights Commissioners Service, the Equality Tribunal, the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the National Employment Rights Authority was viewed as central to the reform process.
Functions of the Commission
The main functions of the WRC are to:
- Promote the improvement of workplace relations, and the maintenance of good workplace relations,
- Promote and encourage compliance with relevant employment legislation,
- Provide guidance in relation to compliance with Codes of Practice,
- Conduct reviews of, and monitor developments, in workplace relations generally,
- Conduct or commission relevant research and provide advice, information and the findings of research to Joint Labour Committees and Joint Industrial Councils,
- Advise the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in relation to the application of, and compliance with, relevant legislation, and to
- Provide information to the public in relation to employment legislation (other than the Employment Equality Act).
With a wide workforce of almost 200 staff with different specialisms and with offices in Dublin, Carlow, Shannon, Cork and Sligo, and operational bases for hearing meetings in many other counties, the WRC’s mission is to
- deliver a quality customer service throughout Ireland, which is
- speedy, user-friendly, independent, effective, impartial and cost-effective,
- provide variable means of dispute resolution, redress and effective enforcement, and
- improve workplace relations generally,
all of which are delivered fee free.