|Ryanair -v- Labour Court|
| IESC 6|
Supreme Court Record Number:
High Court Record Number:
|2005 166 JR|
Date of Delivery:
Composition of Court:
|Murray C.J., Denham J., Hardiman J., Geoghegan J., Fennelly J.|
|Allow And Set Aside|
|Remit to Labour Court|
Link to Judgment
Murray C.J., Denham J., Hardiman J.
Murray C.J., Denham J., Hardiman J.
THE SUPREME COURT
Appeal No. 377/2005Murray C.J.
THE LABOUR COURT
IRISH MUNICIPAL PUBLIC AND CIVIL TRADE UNION (IMPACT)
JUDGMENT of MR. JUSTICE FENNELLY delivered the 1st day of February, 2007.
I fully agree with the judgment that has been delivered by Geoghegan J. I write only to explain that I also am of opinion that the Labour Court has misunderstood part of the reasoning in my judgment in Iarnród Éireann v. Holbrooke  1 IR 237.
The Labour Court relied on this judgment as an alternative to its principal conclusion that it is not the practice of Ryanair to engage in collective bargaining negotiations in respect of the relevant grade, group or category of workers. What it said was that, even if it was the practice of Ryanair to engage in such collective bargaining negotiations, it, the Labour Court, “would hold that any such body could not lawfully do so in respect of the group of pilots who are party to the instant dispute.”
It must first be recalled that what the Labour Court had to be satisfied of was that:
The Labour Court cited the following passage from my judgment in Iarnród Éireann v. Holbrooke:
Patently, the employer in the present case has not stated that it refuses to negotiate and the Labour Court does not claim that it has. However, its decision says:
“it [was] not the practice of the employer to engage in collective bargaining negotiations in respect of the relevant grade, group or category of workers who are parties to the trade dispute…”
Those statements are not justified by the cited passages in my judgment in Iarnród Éireann v. Holbrooke. As I explained at page 245 of the judgment, “the legislative intent was to relieve against the obvious hardship which would have resulted from depriving employees in small firms of the right to negotiate directly their pay and conditions of work with their employer.” Without the provision for “excepted bodies,” it would have been unlawful for a group of employees to negotiate with their own employer. The first sentence in the quoted passage from the Labour Court decision is puzzling. A body cannot be excepted unless it negotiates. It cannot negotiate with the employer without the latter’s consent. The second sentence seems to be to the same effect. But I do not see how either sentence justifies the conclusion reached by the Labour Court that “any such body [apparently an excepted body of pilots] could not lawfully do so in respect of the group of pilots who are party to the instant dispute.” This, with respect, is circular reasoning. If any group of pilots is willing to negotiate with Ryanair, it being accepted that Ryanair is willing to negotiate, it follows that that group is an excepted body. Thus, there would be no illegality.
“It is clear from this judgment that a body of persons can only be an excepted body if the employer consents to negotiate with the body. By parity of reasoning, if an employer wishes to negotiate with a group of its own staff rather than through a trade union, but the employees are unwilling to negotiate on that basis, they cannot be an excepted body.”
To be fair to the labour Court, I should cite the intervening passage, from which it appears to deduce this conclusion. It is as follows:
Again, this passage seems open to the charge of circularity. I leave aside the question of the sufficiency of evidence, which has been dealt with in the judgment of Geoghegan J. The Labour Court uses the unwillingness of those pilots who are members of IALPA to negotiate directly, in order to reach the conclusion that it would be unlawful for Ryanair “to engage in collective bargaining negotiations…” It does so in reliance on the pilots’ wish to be represented by a trade union, when Ryanair’s acknowledged policy is not to negotiate with a trade union. The essential step in the reasoning is the statement that the pilots “could not be realistically described as members of an excepted body…” But the question before the Labour Court was whether it was the practice of Ryanair to engage in collective bargaining. The conclusion of the Labour Court would implicitly oblige the company to negotiate with a trade union. Even though it says it is willing to engage in collective bargaining, it is said that it could not lawfully do so, because the employees do not consent.
“If…… there is an excepted body comprising pilots employed by Ryanair, membership of the body could only be voluntary and could not extend to those who do not wish to be members. It seems equally clear from the plain wording of Section 6(3)(h) of the Trade Union Act, 1941 that such an excepted body could only lawfully negotiate on behalf of its own members and no other employees. On the uncontradicted submission of IALPA those pilots which it represents do not wish to be represented in negotiations with their employer other than by their trade union. On that account they could not be realistically described as members of an excepted body constituted for the purpose of negotiating directly with Ryanair and any such body could not lawfully engage in collective bargaining on their behalf.”
Iarnród Éireann v. Holbrooke involved an attempt by a group of employees to compel their employer to negotiate with them and/or a Trade Union which did not have a negotiating licence. The employer refused. In the present case the employer has refused to negotiate with a trade union but maintains that it is willing to negotiate with the employees.