aidan o’brien wrc stables labour court exercise
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Exercise riders and grooms at the country´s leading racing stable worked for up to 19 hours a-day, the Labour Court heard on Wednesday.
Ballydoyle Racing Stables, run by leading trainer, Aidan O´Brien, is appealing a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) notice, requiring it to comply with legislation governing working hours, on the basis that training racehorses is exempt from the rules because it is classed as agriculture.
The commission´s lawyer, Rosemary Healy Rae, told the Labour Court that some Ballydoyle employees had “worked for 19 hours out of 24” while others had worked for 15 to 17 hours.
The WRC found the breaches during a pre-announced inspection of Ballydoyle a number of weeks ago and issued the compliance notice. Failure to comply could lead to prosecution.
However, Ballydoyle´s counsel, Paul Gallagher, pointed out that staff at the racing stables were seen as a very important part of the operation.
“These employees are extremely well looked after, they have many benefits going beyond the normal, including housing and healthcare,” he said.
The WRC argues that training and caring for racehorses does not constitute agriculture as it is defined in industrial relations law, and so is not exempt from the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1998, the legislation under which the compliance notice was issued.
Mr Gallagher argued that the definition was incorrect and told the court that the WRC had in fact treated Ballydoyle´s activities as agriculture until February this year, when it changed this view without any explanation.
He also rejected an argument made by the commission that even if Ballydoyle was entitled to the exemption, it would first have to give staff compensatory rest breaks to qualify.
The case is continuing today at the Labour Court.