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Workplace Relations Commission’s power to resolve disputes “does not offend the Constitution” – Supreme Court

DUBLIN: The Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge that raised constitutional questions about the country’s provision for resolving workplace disputes. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC)’s power to resolve disputes between employers and employees “does not offend the Constitution”.

Of the seven Supreme Court’s judges, the landmark ruling was made by Chief Justice Mr Frank Clarke, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne and Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley. Mr Justice William McKechnie, Mr Justice Peter Charleton and Mr Justice John MacMenamin disagreed with the verdict.

The judgment removes a potential legal issue posed by the first test case challenging 2015 legislation that streamlined the State’s industrial relations laws and system for resolving workplace disputes.

Opponents have argued that part V of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015, was unconstitutional. They argued that when the commission ruled on workplace disputes, it was administering justice, and that Article 34 of the Constitution only gave courts and judges this power.

The Supreme Court acknowledged that the WRC was administering justice. But the Supreme Court observed that it was only exercising limited jurisdiction. The verdict said that this was allowed by the Constitution under Article 37. The decision of a WRC adjudication officer is limited to employment law issues. Justice O’Donnell pointed out that this can be appealed to the Labour Court and then to the High Court. “Article 34.1 makes clear that public hearings are of the essence of the administration of justice,” he said.

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