THE Attorney General, advisor to the Government on legal matters, has been asked for his view on the recent Labour Court ruling which held that racing industry staff are not agricultural workers.

The ruling drew attention to the working conditions in the industry, in particular the long hours often put in by stable staff on racedays and the common practice of only having a day and a half off every fortnight.

Following a parliamentary question by Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon, the Minister for Employment Affairs, Regina Doherty said she has sought advice from Attorney General Seamus Wolfe in relation to the concerns. The Minister is seeking his view on the possibility of providing exemptions from the Organisation of Working Time Act for the sector within the derogations permitted under the Working Time Directive.

“From my base in Kildare South, I am acutely aware of the difficulties and concerns that have arisen in many trainers’ yards following the recent Labour Court determination,” said Heydon. “I discussed the issue with my colleague Agriculture Minister Michael Creed who is also aware of the deep concerns that exist and its significant impact on the sector, particularly for smaller operators. His department officials are engaging with their counterparts in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection who hold responsibility for employment rights.”

The Workplace Relations Commission is working with Horse Racing Ireland on producing an employers’ guide for trainers. The document was due to be published in late January and a source told The Irish Field yesterday that discussions were ongoing between the two bodies on its content.

Stud farms and their staff are not affected by the ruling as horse breeding is considered an agricultural activity.