News & Events

Announcement of new Chairman of the Labour Court and Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD and the Minister for Business and Employment, Pat Breen TD, today (Tuesday) announced the outcome of the competitive processes to fill the critical leadership positions of Chairman of the Labour Court and Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). The announcement follows two separate Public Appointments Service selection processes conducted over recent months. 

The Ministers wish to congratulate Mr. Kevin Foley, currently a Deputy Chairman in the Labour Court on his selection to fill the position of Chairman of the Court and Ms. Oonagh Buckley, currently Assistant Secretary on Pay and Pensions Policy in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on her selection to fill the position of Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission. 

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “I wish both Oonagh Buckley and Kevin Foley every success in their new roles. I know they will make an invaluable contribution in the years ahead to ensuring our industrial relations machinery operates effectively and that employment rights of workers are fully respected.” 

“Following the reforms completed in 2015, Ms Buckley and Mr Foley will lead a new era in delivery of workplace relations in Ireland.” 

The reforms saw the creation of the WRC as the single point of access at first instance for industrial relations and employment rights issues and the expansion and positioning of the Labour Court as the single appellate body. 

Minister Breen said “The Labour Court has earned the trust and confidence of users of its services since its establishment and I believe Mr. Foley will continue with that sound tradition. The WRC has a broad expanse of functions that are critical to ensuring harmonious industrial relations and the protection of workers’ rights. I believe Ms. Buckley will provide the leadership and vision to ensure the WRC, as a new body, successfully delivers on its very challenging mandate.”

ENDS 

For further information: 

Press Office, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation 01- 6312200 or press.office@djei.ie 

Note for editors:

Kevin Foley is currently serving as a Deputy Chairman of the Labour Court and was previously the Director of Conciliation, Workplace Mediations and Early Resolution Services with the Labour Relations Commission. He has been involved in Labour Affairs in Ireland for over 30 years. 

Oonagh Buckley is currently Assistant Secretary on Pay and Pensions Policy in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and has led the Government side as employer in all the major pay and industrial relations negotiations in recent years. 

Labour Court

The Labour Court is a quasi-judicial statutory tribunal with responsibility for the investigation of trade disputes and certain other functions under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946-2012. It also has an appellate role in disputes between workers and employers concerning employment rights under various statutes. Following the enactment of Workplace Relations Act, 2015, from 1 October, 2015 the Labour Court became the only appellate tribunal in employment rights disputes, taking over the role previously played by the Employment Appeals Tribunal in hearing appeals under various employment enactments made from that date. The balance of the Courts work following these changes is expected to be approximately 30% industrial relations and 70% employment rights.

The changes in the profile of cases coming before the Court vis-à-vis its overall caseload will not diminish in any way the importance of its role under the Industrial Relations Acts.

The Court fulfils its industrial relations function by providing independent, fair and speedy adjudication in matters of difference between workers and employers. Since its inception the Court has built a strong reputation for impartiality and fair dealing in its investigation of trade disputes and employment rights appeals.

In large measure the Court’s success in that regard is dependent on the trust and confidence which the users of its services have in the Chairman and the Deputy Chairmen of the Court.

The Court acts by division. There are currently four divisions of the Court. A division comprises the Chairman or a Deputy Chairman, a worker member and an employer member. The Court is a collegiate body and all members are equal in its decision making processes. The Chairman and deputy chairmen can be required to sit alone to carry out such function as are prescribed by the Minister.

Recent changes with the enactment of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 have seen the appointment of an additional Deputy Chairman to allow for the chair of individual divisions to be rotated in order to free up the Chairman and Deputy Chairmen for drafting and case management while all four divisions continue to sit. 

Legislative Provisions for the appointment of the Chairman of the Labour Court:

Section 10 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 as amended by section 75 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 provides that the Minister shall appoint the Chairman of the Labour Court from among persons nominated by the Public Appointments Service following a competition held in accordance with the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004. 

Role of the Chairman of the Labour Court:

The responsibilities of the Chair of the Labour Court include: 

  • The Chairman is the most senior position within the Labour Court. The Chairman’s primary duty, in common with all other members of the Court, is to hear and determine cases assigned to the Division over which he or she presides;
  • The Chairman is responsible for managing the division of the Court to which the Chairman is assigned and ensuring that cases are disposed of fairly, efficiently and within a predetermined timeframe;
  • The role of Chairman also includes the management of the administrative functions of the Court;
  • The Chairman is responsible for ensuring the efficient running of the Court, the allocation of resources, duties and that targets are met by all Divisions of the Court.

 

Workplace Relations Commission:

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was established in 2015 to deliver a modern, user-friendly and world-class workplace relations system in Ireland. 

All the functions of the Labour Relations Commission (including the Rights Commissioner service), the Equality Tribunal, the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Labour Court were brought together under the remit of the Workplace Relations Commission with the commencement of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 on the 1st of October 2015. 

The Commission activities are primarily concerned both with facilitating and assisting workplace change and creating an environment of equity and fairness in employment. The specialist services of the Commission play a vital role in contributing towards industrial peace, maintaining and sustaining enterprise productivity through engaging with employers and trade unions on issues of employee pay and rewards, and promoting orderly collective bargaining in the private sector. Securing fair, impartial and effective employment rights adjudication services and appropriate and essential employment standards and enforcement are vital and important components of the strategic operations of the Commission.

The Commission has a broad range of functions including industrial relations advisory and conciliation services and the resolution of industrial relations disputes of interest between employers and workers across the public and private sectors. It provides a comprehensive early resolution, mediation and adjudication services in relation to the full spectrum of employment rights and equality cases. It carries out workplace inspections to ensure the employment rights of workers and responsibilities of employers are respected and it has an enforcement function in relation to breaches of employment legislation. 

Legislative Provisions for the appointment of the Director General:

Section 12 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 provides that the Minister shall appoint the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission from among persons nominated by the Public Appointments Service following a competition held in accordance with the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004. 

Role of the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission: 

The responsibilities of the Director General include: 

  • Advising the Board of the WRC in relation to the development of the medium term Strategy of the Commission and driving the achievement of strategic goals through annual Work Programmes;
  • Managing the delivery across the State of the highest quality early resolution, mediation and adjudication services in relation to complaints presented and disputes referred to the Director General;
  • Ensuring effective inspection and enforcement activity across the State results in enhanced employment rights protection of workers and assists employers in meeting their responsibilities;
  • Ensuring the delivery of quality service to WRC customers across all activities of the WRC.

 

 

 

 

 

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