People Before Profit Waterford welcomes the Supreme Court ruling that will impact on the WRC being held in public, and urges the Minister with responsibility to urgently apply the needed legislation. We would however support the legislation going further than the specifics of the Supreme Court.
Representative Una Dunphy says “Amending legislation dealing with the WRC is pointed at the specifics of one case. While it is welcome that public scrutiny now applies along with swearing an oath and cross-examination, there are many other aspects of WRC hearings and legal limitations to employment law that require altering. Very few people can afford to take cases; the employer can attend this quasi-judicial hearing lawyered up, (often with tax payer’s money) while the employee often has no such assets. Getting heard at a Supreme Court is well out of the reach of workers. Hence many issues go below the radar of legal scrutiny.”
The WRC is a state-sponsored body, established to provide high quality, early resolution services to workplace disputes in Ireland; however, many workers are worn down by rogue employers before ever getting to this forum. PBP welcome the decision for public hearings but overcoming the imbalance of power between employer and employee needs a great deal more than the amendments suggested. Cases of unfair dismissal are particularly unfair and favour a slap on the wrist approach which has many negative consequences to the employee and beyond.
Una continues, “An employee sacked unfairly receives no compensation if through their own ability they find other employment in the immediate aftermath of their dismissal. This has massive ramifications, especially in the case of victimisation for whistle-blowers, but for any workers dismissed unfairly. It also sends a clear message to other employees, as to what can be expected. Legislation needs to be amended to charge rogue employers with wage theft for unfair/illegal dismissals. This would see them return monies owed to the maltreated employee, but also face charges of a criminal nature. Throwing some public money at the WRC in a weak settlement wouldn’t suffice, but a clear message regarding workplace treatment, would also ensue.”
People involved in toxic workplaces know that the majority of cases never see the light of day, let alone make it to the WRC or Supreme Court. Many people leave the workplace and the problem continues. Until workplaces are a safe and fair environment for all, bullying and toxicity will continue to ruin lives.