Case number: 180373
2 November 2018
On 24 May 2018 the applicant requested access to all records related to his WRC case. On 14 June 2018 the WRC granted access to the majority of the records it identified as coming within the scope of the request apart from two records to which access was refused on the ground that the Act does not apply to those records. Following a request for an internal review, the WRC affirmed its original decision. On 10 September 2018 the applicant sought a review by this Office of that decision.
I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal, binding decision. In conducting this review, I have had regard to correspondence between the WRC and the applicant as outlined above, and to communications between this Office and both the applicant and the WRC on the matter.
This review is concerned solely with the question of whether the WRC was justified in refusing access to records of notes taken at two conciliation meetings relating to the applicant's case on the ground that the FOI Act does not apply to those records.
Section 6(2)(a) of the FOI Act provides that an entity specified in Schedule 1, Part 1 of the Act shall, subject to the provisions of that Part, be a public body for the purposes of the Act. Schedule 1, Part 1 contains details of bodies that are partially included for the purposes of the Act and also details of the certain specified records that are included or excluded. If the records sought do not come within the description of the records that are included, then the Act does not apply and no right of access exists.
Part 1(s)(i) of Schedule 1 provides that the Labour Relations Commission is not a public body for the purposes of the FOI Act in relation to records concerning the provision of conciliation or mediation services by the Commission relating to trade dispute resolution, where parties to the process are participating in a voluntary capacity to try to settle such disputes.
The Workplace Relations Act 2015 provided for the establishment of the WRC, for the dissolution of the Labour Relations Commission and for the transfer of its functions to the WRC. As such, I am satisfied that the reference in Part 1(s)(i) of Schedule 1 to the Labour Relations Commission should properly be regarded as a reference to the WRC.
The records to which access was refused in this case are described in the schedule of records provided to the applicant as Industrial Relations Officer notes taken at conciliation meetings on two specified dates. This is not disputed by the applicant. Indeed, I note that the applicant provided this Office with certain documentation as part of his submission which expressly refers to the conciliation conferences that took place on the dates in question. The documentation indicates that the matter concerned a trade dispute that the Labour Court deemed should more appropriately be dealt with at conciliation. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the records at issue are of a type captured by the exclusion in Part 1(s)(i) of Schedule 1. I find, therefore, that the Act does not apply to these records and the WRC was justified in refusing to release them.
Having carried out a review under section 22(2) of the FOI Act, I hereby affirm the decision of the WRC in this case.
Section 24 of the FOI Act sets out detailed provisions for an appeal to the High Court by a party to a review, or any other person affected by the decision. In summary, such an appeal, normally on a point of law, must be initiated not later than four weeks after notice of the decision was given to the person bringing the appeal.