HRI chief fears for future in wake of Ballydoyle appeal blow
Horse Racing Ireland's chief executive Brian Kavanagh foresees a future in which racing is not deemed an agricultural activity being "very troublesome" and believes flexibility with regard to working hours is essential.
Kavanagh was speaking in the wake of the Labour Court in Dublin's dismissal of an appeal by Ballydoyle Racing on Friday against compliance notices issued by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) over a failure to give grooms and exercise riders rest periods to which they were legally entitled.
"I've not seen the judgement and would need to study it and understand the implications first, but one thing I'd say is that any decision or suggestion racing is not part of the agriculture sector is very worrying indeed," said Kavanagh.
"It could be very troublesome if something like this were to become permanent. Working in racing isn't a Monday to Friday, nine-five job. It can be seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Flexibility is needed. Sectors like agriculture, hospitality and transport have to have flexibility to operate and manage the workload.
"We've been working with the WRC and engaging with the relevant authorities to come up with the best practice possible, where the welfare of staff is taken into account, and that work is coming to a conclusion soon."
Early last year four compliance notices were issued against the employer in respect of those breaches.
As part of an appeal at which trainer Aidan O'Brien gave evidence, Ballydoyle Racing argued it was exempt from provisions of the Organisation of Working Time Act because its staff were engaged in agricultural activities.
Ballydoyle also contended its training activities were carried out in conjunction with the activities of Coolmore Stud Farm, which has the same owners but is a separate legal entity.
Ballydoyle also argued rest breaks were not always possible because highly strung thoroughbreds needed to have the same groom and exercise rider, rather than a variety of staff looking after them for shorter periods.
The WRC and Ballydoyle disagreed on the definition of 'agriculture', with Ballydoyle contending it was entitled to an exemption under a broader definition of the word. However, the WRC argued Ballydoyle is not an agricultural operation under the common definition.
The court rejected Ballydoyle's contention it was entitled to the derogation from providing statutory rest periods for agricultural activities under the Organisation of Working Time Act, and allowed the WRC compliance notices to stand.
It is expected Ballydoyle will further appeal against the Labour Court ruling in the High Court.
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