Burke v The Minister for Labour
|01 January 1979
|01 January 1979
|[1978 No. 3835 P.]
Constitution - Statute - Validity - Delegated legislation - Natural justice - Fair procedures - Invalidity at common law - Minimum wages order - Employment Regulation Order (Hotels Joint Labour Committee), 1978 (S.I. No. 156), arts. 2, 3 - Industrial Relations Act, 1946 (No. 26), ss. 42-47 - Constitution of Ireland, 1937, Article 40.
The Industrial Relations Act, 1946, empowers a Joint Labour Committee to make proposals to the Labour Court for fixing the statutory minimum wage payable by an employer to an employee in a specified class of employment. Apart from the power to refer the proposals back to the Committee with such observations as that court may consider fit, the Labour Court must either make an order fixing the minimum wage in accordance with the Committee's proposals or refuse to make the order sought by the Committee. If an employer fails to pay the minimum wage stated in an order of the Labour Court which is applicable to him, he commits a criminal offence and is also liable for the replacement of the employee's loss. The Act of 1946 states that such committee shall, save as otherwise provided by the Act, adopt "such procedure at its meetings and otherwise, as it may determine to be suitable for the discharge of its functions"under the Act.
At a meeting of a Joint Labour Committee in 1978 the members considered a motion by the employees' representatives containing proposals for the replacement of a previous order of the Labour Court, fixing minimum wages for employees in the hotel industry, by a new order giving effect to an intervening national wage agreement. Those proposals did not contain any provision for an adjustment of the value of that part of those wages which was attributable to the cost of the board and lodging provided by the relevant employers for their employees. An amendment tabled by the employers' representatives, which sought to reserve the employers' right to have their submissions in favour of such adjustment considered and adopted, was defeated on a vote of the members of the Committee. At subsequent meetings of the Committee it was clear that the Committee would not consider the employers' submissions, although no formal vote was ever taken on the point. Ultimately the Committee's proposals were adopted by the Labour Court which made the Order of 1978 without any re-assessment of such value having been made. The plaintiffs claimed in the High Court, without invoking the Constitution of Ireland, an order declaring that the Labour Court was not entitled to make the Order of 1978, but the High Court held that the order had been made intra vires the Labour Court and dismissed the plaintiffs' claim. On appeal by the plaintiffs it was
Held by the Supreme Court (O'Higgins C.J., Henchy, Griffin, Kenny and Parke JJ.), in allowing the appeal, 1, that, where the National Parliament delegates to a body such functions as are allotted to a Joint Labour Committee by the Act of 1946 and confers on that body ancillary powers of the nature conferred on that Committee by that Act, it is a necessary inference from the terms of such legislation that the legislature intended that body to exercise its powers not only with constitutional propriety and due regard to natural justice but also within the framework of the terms and objects of the relevant enactment and with basic fairness, reasonableness and good faith.
2. That the Committee who had proposed the terms of the Order of 1978 had failed to satisfy the requirement of basic fairness and that, accordingly, that order had been made ultra vires the Labour Court and was void insofar as it purported to substitute new minimum wages for hotel workers in receipt of board or lodging from their employers.
On the 28th June, 1978, the plaintiffs issued a summons in which they sought a declaration that the Labour Court was not entitled to proceed with the consideration of proposals for revising or amending the Employment Regulation Order (Hotels Joint Labour Committee) 1977 or to make a new order in its place on the proposals submitted to the Labour Court in March and April, 1978, and an order declaring that the Employment Regulation Order, 1978 (Hotels Joint Labour Committee) had been made ultra vires the Labour Court.
The first plaintiff was the director and secretary of the Irish Hotels Federation and a member of the Hotels Joint Labour Committee. The second plaintiff was a member of that committee and the owner of a hotel. The second and the next seven defendants were members of the Labour Court. The tenth defendant, Desmond Farley, was the chairman of the above committee. The plaintiffs also claimed an injunction compelling the tenth defendant to permit full discussion and examination by the Committee of the proposals of the employers' representatives concerning the re-assessment of the value of that part of the wages of hotel employees which was attributable to the cost of the board and lodging provided for them by their employers, and an injunction restraining the first defendant from prosecuting hotel owners for...
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