Trainers and HRI to hold crisis meeting over working practices decision
The Irish Racehorse Trainers Association will meet with Horse Racing Ireland next week to discuss the full implications of the decision reached by the Labour Court to dismiss an appeal by Ballydoyle Racing against compliance notices issued by the Workplace Relations Commission.
The compliance notices regarding work practices, relating to hours worked and time-off periods at Ballydoyle, were issued in February 2017 after inspections carried out at the training establishment in 2016.
Ballydoyle have said they will continue the fight by appealing against the Labour Court's ruling, while Michael Grassick, chief executive of the IRTA, said: "We've arranged a meeting with HRI for next Wednesday to discuss what is a very serious situation.
"We're also planning to arrange a meeting with government officials as the Labour Court's findings have very serious implications for the whole business of training racehorses.”
The court's findings that staff in racing stables are no longer covered under the term 'agricultural workers' are causing considerable concern in the training ranks, with Noel Meade, chairman of the IRTA, stating many trainers could be "wiped out" and forced out of racing unless the situation is resolved.
Action must be taken
And on Thursday leading trainer Dermot Weld added his voice to the concern over the Labour Court’s decision, saying: "It's very important this situation is sorted out as quickly as possible.
"The change in categorisation from the agriculture sector could have widespread and serious consequences across the industry unless action is taken very swiftly to remedy the situation."
He continued: "Noel Meade has described the seriousness of the situation very accurately, and it's important a way is found to resolve it.
"Whether it's a question of going back into the agriculture category, or getting a separate category to take into account the specific nature of how stables need to operate, the authorities really have to find a new way to go forward. And quickly."
The full report published on Thursday concluded that the Labour Court "finds that the appeal [by Ballydoyle] fails in all respects and that each of the four compliance notices served on the appellant by the Workplace Relations Commission on February 20, 2017 is affirmed."
Ballydoyle argued they should be exempt from the provisions of the Working Time Act because their staff are engaged in agricultural activity. However, that claim was rejected.
The report confirmed that an amendment to the Industrial Relations Act in 2015 means racing industry employees are no longer entitled to the status of agricultural worker, which they previously held, with training yards not receiving working hours exemptions.
The court accepted the WRC's argument that the training of racehorses does not fulfil the criteria for agricultural activity.
A statement issued by Ballydoyle Racing on Thursday said: "The Labour Court’s determination that the training and care of racehorses is not an agricultural activity, and as a result not exempt from certain provisions of the EU directive on the Organisation of Working Time, is extremely disappointing.
"Ballydoyle presented extensive factual evidence and legal argument in support of its position to the Labour Court and will now appeal against the determination in the Circuit Court."
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