Iarnród Éireann v Holbrooke
|25 January 2001
| IESC 7
|[1999 No. 7690 P; S.C. Nos. 145 and 150 of 2000]
|25 January 2001
 IESC 7
THE SUPREME COURT
COMPANIES ACTS 1963 – 1990
TRANSPORT (REORGANIZATION OF CORAS IOMPAIR EIREANN) ACT 1986
TRADE UNION ACT 1941 PART II
RAILWAYS ACT 1924 S55
TRADE UNION ACT 1871
TRADE UNION ACT 1942 S2
TRADE UNION ACT 1941 S5(1)
TRADE UNION ACT 1941 S7(a)
TRADE UNION ACTS 1871 – 1990
TRADE UNION ACT 1941 S6
TRADE UNION ACT 1941 S6(3)(a)
RAILWAYS ACT 1924 S55(1)
TRANSPORT SALARIED STAFFS ASSOCIATION V CORAS IOMPAIR EIREANN (CIE)
Employment law; industrial relations; statutory interpretation; defendant employees of plaintiff constituting the National Executive of the Irish Locomotive Drivers' Association (I.L.D.A.); appeal from order of High Court declaring that defendants, not having a negotiation licence and not being an excepted body, are not a representative union and can not lawfully conduct negotiations for the fixing of pay hours of duty and other conditions of service of plaintiff's drivers; whether plaintiffs had been bound to negotiate and to reach agreement with trade unions including I.L.D.A.; whether I.L.D.A. constituted an excepted body as defined by statute; whether such a body can be said to carry on negotiations where it does not and can not do so because employer refuses to negotiate; Trade Union Act, 1941; Railways Act, 1924; Industrial Relations Act, 1990;
Held: Appeal dismissed; declaration of High Court varied to state that "defendants are not an excepted body for the purposes of section 6 of the Trade Union Act, 1941 as amended by section 2 of the Trade Union Act, 1942".
Iarnród Eireann v. Holbrooke - Supreme Court: Fennelly J., Denham J., Murphy J., Murray J., McGuinness J. - 25/01/2001 -
The defendants were members of a trade union not recognised by the plaintiff/respondent who sought and obtained a declaration in the High Court to the effect that the defendants' union ILDA were not a representative union within the meaning of section 2 of the Trade Union Act 1942. The defendants appealed to the Supreme Court the trial judge's interpretation of the 1941 and 1942 Acts. The plaintiff required representative trade unions representing their employees to be in possession of a negotiation licence granted by virtue of the 1941 Act. ILDA had not applied for such a licence and the plaintiff did not recognise ILDA and refused to negotiate with it. The court considered the 1941 Act, as amended and section 55 of the 1924 Act. The court found that ILDA would not qualify to hold a negotiation licence as it did not qualify for any of the exceptions contained in section 6 of the 1941 Act . The court considered the term of whether a body "carries on" negotiations in light of the plaintiffs' position in refusing to negotiate with ILDA. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the High Court but on different grounds and varied the declaration granted in the High Court accordingly.
JUDGMENT delivered on the 25th day of January, 2001 by FENNELLY J. [nem diss]
Although the setting for the present appeal is a contentious labour dispute in the national railway system, the court is confronted with two comparatively discrete points of statutory interpretation. Thus the briefest sketch of the litigation to date will suffice.
The plaintiff, Iarnrod Eireann-Irish Rail, is a company, formed and registered under the Companies Acts pursuant to the provisions of the Transport (Reorganization of Coras Iompair Eireann) Act, 1986.It is a state body responsible for the railways and exercises the functions conferred previously on Coras Iompair Eireann, which holds all its shares.
The first eleven defendants are all employed by the plaintiff as locomotive drivers and, as the plaintiff emphasised at the hearing, are valued employees in that capacity.. They are members of as well as constituting the National Executive of the last named defendant, the Irish Locomotive Drivers' Association (ILDA). It is the precise legal or, to be more precise, industrial-relations, character of ILDA which is the principal bone of contention between the parties to the appeal.
The matter which principally preoccupied the High Court was the plaintiff's claim that the personal defendants had engaged in unlawful industrial action, in particular by organising and inciting illegal work stoppages, thereby causing damage to the plaintiff. All these claims were dismissed by the learned trial judge after a hearing which lasted six days. There is no appeal.
The plaintiff also included in its proceedings a claim for the following declarations:
1. A Declaration that the defendants are acting unlawfully in that they are portraying themselves as a duly authorised or excepted body for the purposes of the Trade Union Act of 1941as amended in that they are-
Insisting on representing locomotive drivers in the plaintiff's service in the context of their terms and conditions of service in breach of statute (and in particular in breach of the Railways Act 1924) in the absence of lawful warrant and in particular a negotiation licence as stipulated by statute;
Directing, fomenting, instigating, promoting and maintaining the industrial action against the plaintiff contrary to law and in particular the Industrial Relations Act 1990.
Interfering with the plaintiff's statutory mandate to provide a transport and rail service within the State.
2. A Declaration that the plaintiff is required as a matter of law (and in particular statute law) to negotiate and conclude agreements pertaining to the terms and conditions of service of its employees with those authorised trade unions recognised for such purpose by the Plaintiff and possessing negotiation licences.
The defendants resist these claims essentially by saying:
• . ILDA is a trade union registered under the Trade Union Act, 1871;
• . ILDA is an excepted body within the meaning of the Trade Union Act, 1941(the act of 1941);
• . ILDA is a trade union representative of railway employees within the meaning of section 55 of the Railways act, 1924(the act of 1924).
The defendants claim, further, by way of counterclaim, declarations to the effect that the plaintiff, by virtue of the terms of the act of 1924, is bound to regulate rates of pay, hours of duty and other conditions of service with trade unions representative of railway employees, which includes ILDA, and:
4. A Declaration that the plaintiff is required to reach agreement with the Irish Locomotive Drivers' Association together with other Trade Unions representative of railway employees within the meaning of Section 55 of the Railways Act 1924in order to amend the agreement relating to rates of pay, hours of duty and other conditions of service of locomotive drivers made about the month of May 1994 with the Trade Unions representative of such railway employees
The trial judge found in favour of the plaintiff on all these legal issues. The High Court order declares
"... that the Defendants not having a negotiation licence and not being an "expected (sic) body" within the meaning of Section 2 of the Trade Union Act, 1942are not a "representative union" within the meaning of Section 55 of the Railways Act 1924and cannot lawfully conduct negotiations for the fixing of pay hours of duty and other conditions of service of locomotive drivers in the employment of the Plaintiffs"
The defendants' appeal takes issue essentially with the trial judge's interpretation of the sections of the Act of 1941 and the Act of 1924 that were at issue and also claims that he erred in holding section 55 of the Act of 1924 to be merely directory and not mandatory. In effect, as explained during the hearing of the appeal, the defendants claim that the plaintiffs are bound to negotiate with and to reach agreement with trade unions including ILDA.
The existence of ILDA resulted from dissatisfaction with the negotiation by the existing two unions representing employees of the plaintiff of a new collective agreement in 1994. It is a break-away union comprising former members of the Services, Industrial and Professional Trade Union, known as S I P T U, and the National Bus and Railway Union, known as the N B R U. Originally formed merely as the National Locomotive Drivers' Committee, ILDA was registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies on 29th July, 1999 as a trade union pursuant to the provisions of the Trade Union Act, 1871.
The plaintiff, however, to use the language of the trial judge, "looked upon the emergence of I L D A with undisguised dismay." They did not favour what they regarded as fragmentation of the workforce into yet more unions over and above the eleven with which they already dealt. All locomotive drivers are obliged by the terms of their contracts of employment to belong either to S I P T U or N B R U. They would deal with unions in possession of a negotiation licence granted by virtue of the act of 1941. I L D A has not applied for such a licence. The plaintiff also considered I L D A to be a disruptive influence not only on negotiations but on the actual operation of the railways. In short, the plaintiff does not recognise ILDA and will not negotiate with it.
Resolution of the...
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