The High Court has blocked the Minister of State for Employment, Damien English, from introducing pay increases for 16,000 workers in the security industry from next Monday.
Barrister Eoin O’Shea told Ms Justice Nuala Butler that the Minister had signalled by way of a press release on 3 August his intention to commence an Employment Regulation Order to increase pay for security guards.
Mr O’Shea, who appeared with Tom Casey Solicitors for three security companies, was granted leave on behalf of Top Security, Morbury and Las Security to challenge by way of judicial review the minister’s decision and the proposals of the Labour Court.
Ms Butler said the court had been satisfied from the evidence to grant leave and order a stay restraining the minister from signing any proposed new employment regulation order providing a new minimum rate of pay of €12.50 an hour and an increased minimum of €12.90 per hour from 1 February next.
Mr O’Shea said the applicants were companies involved in the provision of security and guarding services in the Irish market which involved the provision of security staff for Irish clients including round-the-clock manned services.
He said the number of companies engaged in the provision of static guards services was in decline, having fallen from 214 companies in 2014 to 184 companies in 2020.
Instead, clients were turning to non-static technology solution companies which had more than doubled to over 1,000 in the same period.
Ms Butler heard the Industrial Relations Amendment Act provided for the establishment of Joint Labour Committees to provide machinery for submitting proposals to the Labour Court for the adoption by the minister of an Employment Regulation Order.
Mr O’Shea told the court that such committees were composed of union representatives and, on the employer side in this case, mainly members from the larger security firms to promote harmonious relations between workers and employers and to avoid industrial unrest.
He said the Joint Labour Committee, when it had formulated proposals for a regulation order, was bound to publish notice of that order and seek written representations within 21 days of its publication.
He said his clients had twice asked for a copy of the Labour Court’s recommendations to the minister but had not received any prior to the ministerial press release.
He told the court that the Industrial Relations Amendment Act provided that an employer who did not pay the minimum rates as laid out in an Employment Regulation Order or apply other employment conditions, such as for holidays and overtime, was guilty of a criminal offence.
Mr O’Shea said the three applicant companies considered that the Joint Labour Committee process supported the interests of the big rather than the smaller employer, produced an anti-competitive outcome and tended to reduce employment in the industry by encouraging clients to turn to cheaper technology solutions and fewer static guards.
Ms Butler, granting the injunction and staying the introduction of the new regulations, adjourned the judicial review proceedings until early November.