Questions from Socialist Party deputy reveal explosion in case-load and waiting times at the Employment Appeal Tribunal

Home Page // Dáil Issues // Worker's Rights // Questions from Socialist Party deputy reveal explosion in case-load and waiting times at the Employment Appeal Tribunal

Worker's Rights

An emergency boost to resources at the EAT is an absolute requirement
A question put by Socialist Party/United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly to the Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation regarding case-load, resources and waiting times at the Employment Appeal Tribunal revealed an explosion in numbers of people seeking redress for unfair dismissal since the crisis began and a corresponding lengthening of waiting times.
Clare Daly said:

“I was provoked into asking these questions because of the amount of contact my and my party colleague Joe Higgins’ office was receiving from people who had good cases to make for unfair dismissal to the Rights Commissioner and/or Employment Appeals Tribunal.

“In a number of cases the people concerned were in an anti-union company and our office staff assisted them through the process and on occasion represented them at the Tribunal itself. It became blindingly obvious to us in recent years that waiting times for cases were getting longer and longer flowing from the economic crisis and the resulting hundreds of thousands losing their jobs.

 

“The figures are stark. From the eve of the crisis in 2007 to the present there has been a trebling of cases being brought to the Tribunal. The corresponding waiting time has likewise more than trebled from 20 weeks in 2007 to 74 weeks as of last month.

 

“It is true that staffing at the Tribunal has been increased by 50% from 30 to 45.8 since the start of the crisis but even this is woefully inadequate from the point of view of the volume and backlog of cases that has built up .

 

“There are a range of consequences arising from this situation that our office is encountering. For example people who have been unfairly selected for redundancy are deciding not to contest and  possibly win up to the equivalent of two years salary for unfair dismissals because they cannot afford to wait over a year to have their case heard. Likewise many are bypassing the less formal Rights Commissioner to settle unfair dismissal cases because there is an enormous waiting period for cases to be heard there and instead they go straight to the EAT.

 

“This problem has to be addressed at a number of levels. The onus in my mind is on the trade union movement to step up its organising drive and to fight harder for their members being threatened with the sack or redundancy in the first instance so that they don’t need to rely on the Rights Commissioner and EAT for some form of redress. I would also argue for an immediate boost to resources for the Rights Commissioner and EAT so that the backlog of cases can be cleared and waiting times brought down to one month.

 

“The minister in his reply refers to his efforts leading to a future ‘streamlining project to deliver a measurable improvement in the quality of services provided to users of the State’s employment rights/industrial relations dispute resolution services and reduce the burden of accessing such services for users and reduce costs to the State.’

 

“I await the detail of his proposals. However given his general anti worker bias I anticipate he might take a leaf out of the Tory’s book where they have proposed to apply a prohibitive charge on UK workers who want to take unfair dismissal cases. Like New Labour in Britain our Labour Party has no desire to undo the anti union laws introduced by past governments nor change the law to force employers to recognise unions which would go some way to tipping the balance from employers to workers in society.

 

 

 

DAIL QUESTION
                                                                NO.  70          

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide figures for the average waiting time for an applicant to have a Rights Commissioner hearing between 2005 and 2011; if he will provide figures for the average waiting time for an applicant to have an Employment Appeals Tribunal hearing between 2005 and 2011; if he will provide figures for the volume of applications for Rights Commissioner and Employment Appeals Tribunal hearings between 2005 and 2011; if he will provide figures for the staffing levels of the Rights Commissioner and Employment Appeals Tribunal between 2005 and 2011; and if he will provide the necessary resources to reduce current waiting times for Rights Commissioner and Employment Appeal Tribunal hearings from current levels to a maximum of one month.

– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 22nd November, 2011.

 

Ref No:   35633/11

R E P L Y

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr. Bruton)

The Rights Commissioner Service is part of the Labour Relations Commission, a statutory body independent of my Department in the performance of its functions.  All operational matters relating to the Rights Commissioner Service, including the scheduling of hearings, is a matter for the Labour Relations Commission.  Equally, it is a matter for the Commission to decide on the extent to which its administrative resources are allocated to the Rights Commissioner Service.  I have forwarded your Question to the Chief Executive of the Commission and have asked that he respond directly to you on the matter.  I can say that the number of rights commissioners assigned and administrative staff assigned to the Commission increased significantly since 2005.  Details are provided at the end of this reply.

 

The Employment Appeals Tribunal has also seen a significant increase in its caseload in recent years.  Between 2007 and 2009, the number of claims coming to the Tribunal trebled and this had a consequential impact on case processing timeframes.  The waiting periods are set out in the attached table.

In response to this increase, the Tribunal has been allocated some additional administrative staff in recent years while also improving the efficiencies of its own operations.  As a result, there has been a large increase in the number of claims disposed of by the Tribunal in recent years with 6,064 cases disposed of in 2010 compared with 4,680 in 2009 – an increase of approximately 30%.

 

I would add however that the functions and outputs of both the Rights Commissioners Service and the Employment Appeals Tribunal are being addressed in the context of my planned reform of the State’s employment rights and industrial relations structures and institutions.  As part of this, I am chairing an Implementation Group charged with overseeing the restructuring of five existing bodies into a simplified two-tier structure.  I expect this reform and streamlining project to deliver a measurable improvement in the quality of services provided to users of the State’s employment rights/industrial relations dispute resolution services and reduce the burden of accessing such services for users and reduce costs to the State.

Number of rights commissioners 2005 to October 2011
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
Oct 2011
7
8
14
15
15
15
15
Number of Labour Relations Commission staff 2005 to October 2011
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
Oct 2011
40
45
48
48
50
44.53
44.53

 

Number of Claims to Employment Appeals Tribunal 2005 to October 2011
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
Oct 2011
3,727
3,480
3,173
5,457
9,458
8,778
7,424

 

Average Waiting Period for Dublin 2005 to October 2011 (Weeks)
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
Oct 2011
28
27
20
16
31
58
74

 

Average Waiting Period for Provincial Areas 2005 to October 2011 (Weeks)
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
Oct 2011
41
44
51
31
32
55
76

 

                Staffing in Employment Appeals Tribunal 2005 to October 2011
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
Oct 2011
29.4
26.8
30
34.6
36.4
35.20
45.80