Serious concerns over integrity of horseracing in Ireland – says turf club officials

Monday 8 February 2010

Horseracing officials vote for strike action by a margin of 87%.

Horseracing officials in the Turf Club, which regulates and enforces the rules of horseracing in Ireland, have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action by a margin of 87% regarding the slashing of the integrity budget, which preserves the reputation and integrity of Irish horseracing. The integrity budget cuts will mean reductions in incomes for the 32 officials employed there as well as the serious deterioration of the performance of their duties.
Mandate Trade Union, which represents the workers in the Turf Club said the vast majority of officials will see an approximate 36.5% cut in income if the Turf Club plans go ahead. This is despite the fact that funding for the organisation has only reduced by about 22%. The officials claim that this is disproportionate to cutbacks imposed or agreed with other sectors of the organisation. Mandate will now serve notice of industrial action on the Turf Club early next week.
The Turf Club receives funding from Horseracing Ireland which in turn is funded by Government. So far funding has been cut from €61 million in 2008 to €47 million in 2010 – approximately 22%. Of this €47million only €6.4 million is allocated to the integrity budget which has sole responsibility for enforcing the rules and preserving the reputation of horseracing in Ireland. Mandate says that if Ireland wants to remain a leader in horseracing throughout the world, it is vital that the integrity budget is prioritized in order to maintain confidence in the Irish horseracing system.
Mandate Divisional Organiser, Mandy Kane said, “Our members have accepted that cutbacks are necessary within the Turf Club. In fact, we have tabled our own set of cost cutting plans at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) which would have delivered another 10.5% of savings on top of income cuts the officials have already experienced during 2008 and 2009 – approximately 10-15%. These proposals were unfortunately rejected by management who seem intent on forcing their own set of proposals through. This left us with no alternative but to ballot for industrial action.”
Ms Kane added, “We have demonstrated that we are willing to engage with the Turf Club and we have openly stated that we would be willing to attend the Labour Court, but so far the Turf Club has resisted in using the state machinery for providing a determination despite being funded by taxpayer’s money.
The Turf Club officials have also emphasised that they have extremely serious concerns regarding cuts to the integrity budget which will negatively impact on the standards of:
· Sampling of horses through blood and urine tests;
· Identification of all racehorses on a race day;
· Use of camera facilities.
Michael O’Donoghue, an official with the Turf Club said, “We are very alarmed about what implications these cuts may have on the reputation of Irish horseracing. For example, the failure by the Turf Club to replace two full time officials has resulted in the amount of microchip identifications of all racehorses on a race day being reduced from 313 days to 63 days. What this means is that the Turf Club cannot guarantee that the correct horse is running in a race 80% of the time.

“Other areas where cutbacks may effect standards is the routine sample analysis which will impact on policing of an industry which must be run in accordance with drug free guidelines,” concluded Mr. O’Donoghue.