Labour Court marks 75 years
by Niall Shanahan

Ireland’s Labour Court will next week mark its 75th anniversary. The court’s prestigious history and crucial role in the development of the State is being celebrated on social media on #IrelandThenandNow.


The court was established in 1946, following the enactment of the Industrial Relations Act, which coincided with the end of a seven-month pay dispute by Dublin teachers.


Current deputy chairs of the court include Louise O’Donnell and Tom Geraghty, both of whom formerly worked for our union. Louise was head of the Health and Welfare Division in IMPACT, one of the unions that amalgamated to create Fórsa. Tom is a former general secretary of both Fórsa and the PSEU. Both were appointed by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.


Louise, who was called to the Bar of Ireland last year, said the court’s role in the history of the State parallels Ireland’s modernisation and the continuing development of workers’ rights.


“The court carries a proud history of adjudication, and the work we do today is built on strong foundations created by those members of the court who served ahead of us. In marking this anniversary, it gives us an opportunity to consider the outstanding work of people like Evelyn Owens, the first woman appointed as deputy chair of the court, who became its first female chair in 1994.


“Evelyn’s legacy includes a robust body of case law on equality issues, on which we continue to build, and we take pride in that legacy as we mark 75 years of the court’s service to the state,” she said.


When it was established the court’s main functions were to adjudicate in trade disputes and to provide a conciliation service. Other functions given to the court included the establishment of joint labour committees (JLCs) and the registration of employment agreements and joint industrial councils. In 1975 an equality service was added to deal with equal pay – and later, equal treatment – cases.


This equality service, and the conciliation service of the Labour Court, were transferred to the newly established Labour Relations Commission (LRC) in 1991. In 2015, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was established, incorporating the roles and functions previously carried out by the LRC, as well as those of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), Equality Tribunal (ET), Rights Commissioners Service (RCS), and the first-instance (complaints and referral) functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).


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