The Labour Party has proposed new legislation to protect sectoral wage agreements, after the High Court ruled that the law underpinning such agreements was unconstitutional.

The ruling means that legally enforceable Sectoral Employment Orders for the electrical, construction and mechanical engineering sectors which set pay and conditions for over 80,000 workers are now invalid. 

The party's Employment and Social Protection spokesperson Ged Nash said the ruling of Mr Justice Garrett Simons had had a "chilling" effect on the conduct of industrial relations in this country. 

He proposed that the terms of the relevant SEOs should be converted into primary legislation through the Oireachtas.

"In order to fix this urgent matter for the tens of thousands of workers and all of the businesses that were covered by these Orders, we are proposing, in essence, that this defect be addressed by converting the terms of the three purported Orders into primary legislation that would have to be debated and adopted by the Dáil and Seanad in the normal way," he said. 

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Mr Nash said he has written to the Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys urging her to immediately appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. 

He said that traditionally, society and the legislature had taken the view that sectoral collective bargaining systems represented "... an important public policy goal designed to provide for decent wages, agreed basic terms and conditions and to support good businesses against rogue operators".

He said the Labour Party proposals would represent a short-term fix to an urgent problem, and help to provide certainty for workers and decent business, as well as avoiding industrial unrest. 

Asked whether the Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation was planning to appeal the Simons ruling, a Department spokesperson said the matter was still under consideration.