Provisions of the Agreement
The Public Service Agreement includes provisions for the speedy resolution of disputes, using the State’s existing dispute resolution machinery (Labour Relations Commission (LRC),Labour Court, Conciliation and Arbitration Schemes). These provisions emphasise the importance of seeking to resolve disagreements promptly by setting out clear timelines for the dispute resolution process. Specifically, section 1.24 of the Agreement provides that:
“Where the parties involved cannot reach agreement in discussions on any matter under the terms of this agreement within 6 weeks, or another timeframe set by the Implementation Body to reflect the circumstances or nature of the particular matter, the matter will be referred by either side to the LRC and if necessary to the Labour Court…. The outcome from the industrial relations or arbitration process will be final. Such determination(s) will be made within 4 weeks, or another timeframe set by the Implementation Body to reflect the circumstances or nature of the particular matter.”
In addition, section 1.24 also provides that “The outcome from the industrial relations or arbitration process will be final”.
The role of the Implementation Body
Section 1.21 of the Agreement provides that “the Body will provide the forum for interpretation and implementation difficulties arising from the relevant Sectoral Agreements….. prior to any decision on referral on any issue for mediation and/or arbitration.”
In the event that one or more parties argue that the Agreement does not apply to a dispute, it is appropriate that the Court should determine whether the Agreement applies to the dispute in question.
The Body has been asked for assistance of this kind on a number of occasions and its replies are published here.
It is not the function of the Implementation Body to adjudicate on any disputes. In this context, the LRC and Labour Court(or the Arbitraton Board in the case of groups comprehended by schemes of Conciliation and Arbitration) will continue to perform their normal function of resolving disputes. This may involve reviewing the terms of the Agreement and interpreting how they apply to the facts of the dispute.
The Body wrote to the Labour Court about how disputes should be handled. There have been a number of Labour Court hearings about matters related to the Croke Park Agreement. Further information on relevant Labour Court rulings is available on the Court’s website.
The role of the Sectoral Implementation bodies in dispute resolution
The primary focus of any sectoral body is to drive implementation of the Agreement at the sectoral level.
The relevant sectoral implementation body should, as a preliminary matter, be made aware of any disputes arising at the time of initial discussions, to the extent of ensuring that disputes are managed appropriately and in particular, to avoid a number of individual disputes on similar issues being referred to the industrial relations machinery.
A sectoral implementation body may also have a role if a party to a dispute raises a fundamental issue about the intention of the parties when they agreed to a particular clause of a Sectoral Agreement. In the event that the sectoral body is unable to resolve any such issues arising, or where the matter has implication beyond the sector in question, the matter should be referred to the Implementation Body for interpretation.