The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton has pledged to introduce interim legislation to protect vulnerable workers.

This follows today's High Court declaration that the Joint Labour Committee system of setting wages for up to 200,000 low paid workers is unconstitutional.

Bruton said the High Court decision underlined that the system needed reform.

While he could not give a timeframe for when the interim legislation would be introduced, he said the intention would be to provide protection for the employment regulation orders governing sectoral wages while his reform package was being put in place.

He said the interim legislation would cover both existing employees and new recruits.

The High Court ruled that the JLC system was unconstitutional.

The case was taken by John Grace Fried Chicken of Cork and the Quick Service Food Alliance which represents a group of fast food outlets.

The restaurants argued that the Joint Labour Committee system was unconstitutional, unfair, and breached their property rights.

However, the State defended the JLCs as legally sound, and reasonable in protecting the rights of low paid workers.

Mr Justice Kevin Feeney found that there were insufficient principles and policies in the legislation governing joint labour committees to permit them to operate constitutionally - in other words, the legislation gave the Labour Court and Joint Labour Committees too much power without adequate guidance and supervision by the Oireachtas.

Plaintiff John Grace of the Quick Service Food Alliance welcomed the ruling. He said his members had no plans to cut the wages of existing staff but that new recruits would be employed on lower terms.

He said the move would be good for business and would create jobs.

The ruling could have significant implications for the Government's plans to reform wage setting mechanisms governing pay and conditions for around 200,000 workers in sectors including contract cleaning, security, hotels, restaurants and hairdressing.

Bruton has brought reform proposals to cabinet and a decision is expected shortly.

The Taoiseach said today that the Government would be studying the High Court's judgment over the coming days and will decide on what is the best course of action to deal with it and its implications.

Speaking this afternoon, Mr Kenny said the judgment is 42 pages long and quite detailed and is being studied by the Attorney General and ministers.

He said the court had made its decision based on the historic introduction of the EROs arising from the JLC legislation, which is very old.

Business group now want JLCs scrapped

The Restaurants' Association of Ireland urged the Government to immediately abolish JLCs following today's decision.

'It's time for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton to immediately abolish Joint Labour Committees and let the restaurants across the country start employing people without JLC barriers,' said Adrian Cummins, RAI chief executive.

Chambers Ireland also welcomed the ruling, with deputy chief executive Seán Murphy saying: 'Today's ruling should have a positive impact on the Government's plans to reform these wage setting mechanisms, and in turn help to create more jobs in the future.'

Employers' group IBEC urged the Government to accept the court's decision and not attempt to resurrect what it called 'this unconstitutional mechanism' in some other form.

IBEC said it was considering the implications of the decision for existing workers, and would advise its members over the coming days about how to address this issue. The SFA, which is part of IBEC, also called on the Government to now scrap the entire JLC system.

But SIPTU called the ruling 'absolutely devastating'.
SIPTU Vice-President, Patricia King, said: 'Today's High Court judgment removes the only protection low paid workers had on their wages and conditions and is absolutely devastating news for them.

'It's the case of all their birthdays coming at once for the most unscrupulous employers in the State who are now free to plunder the wage packets of poorly paid workers.'

SIPTU called for new legislation to be introduced to protect JLCs.