Labour Court Database
File Number: CD87973
Case Number: LCR11667
Section / Act: S67
Parties: CADBURY (IRELAND) LIMITED - and - FEDERATED WORKERS' UNION OF IRELAND;AMALGAMATED TRANSPORT AND GENERAL WORKERS' UNION
Interpretation of lates and absences procedures.
5. The Court finds that the Company's interpretation is correct
and recommends accordingly.
Division: CHAIRMAN Mr Collins Mr Walsh
Text of Document__________________________________________________________________
CD87973 RECOMMENDATION NO. LCR11667
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1976
PARTIES: CADBURY (IRELAND) LIMITED
FEDERATED WORKERS' UNION OF IRELAND
AMALGAMATED TRANSPORT AND GENERAL WORKERS' UNION
1. Interpretation of lates and absences procedures.
2. In November, 1977, the Company and the Unions negotiated and
agreed procedures for dealing with excessive levels of lates
and/or absences. In 1979, following negotiation, a discussion
stage was incorporated into the procedure. This provided that an
employee would have one or more formal discussions before
progressing into the disciplinary procedure (details supplied to
the Court). In 1985, a dispute arose concerning the Company's
right to take any action against employees for any certified sick
leave. The Unions claimed that action could only be taken against
those with uncertified illnesses or absences. The dispute was
referred to the Labour Court which in LCR9726 found in favour of
The present dispute concerns whether or not the Company has the
right to issue the next stage warning within six months of giving
a previous stage warning. During the past year the Unions have
contested a number of stage warnings on the basis that six months
had not elapsed since the previous warning. Local level
discussion failed to resolve the dispute and on the 24th July,
1987, the Company referred the matter to the conciliation service
of the Labour Court. Two conciliation conferences on the 29th
September and the 16th October (earliest suitable dates) failed to
resolve the matter and on the 30th November the Company sought
referral of the case to the Labour Court for investigation and
recommendation. The ATGWU agreed to the referral on the 21st
December and the FWUI confirmed its agreement on the 23rd
December. A Court hearing was held on the 21st January, 1988.
3. 1. Absenteeism is one of the major problems facing the
Company. Cadbury Ireland's main customer is Cadbury Ltd., in
the U.K. However, as well as being its main customer, it is
also its main competitor in seeking capital investment,
orders, new products/plants etc. Cadbury Ireland's production
costs are far in excess of the Cadbury U.K. factories and this
position is being further damaged by a totally unacceptable
absentee level. The cost of absenteeism in the Dublin factory
Sick Pay/Attendance bonus - #400,000
Absenteeism cover - #940,000
Plant efficiency - #500,000
Loss of product - unquantifiable
Management time - unquantifiable
2. The purpose of warning an employee under the procedure
is to make the employee aware of the consequences of
continuing to have an unacceptable attendance level and to get
the employee to achieve an acceptable and sustained attendance
level. In order to achieve this, the Company believes that it
is vital that employees are spoken to and if necessary, warned
when their attendance is deemed to be unsatisfactory.
3. It is a nonsense to wait for three/four months before
taking action. The records currently in dispute have been
submitted to the Court. Record 'A' is a clear example of a
totally unacceptable attendance record that the Company could
not allow to continue. Within nine weeks of receiving a stage
one warning and clearly having the consequences outlined in
writing, this employee has had five periods of absence without
permission and three lates.
4. The main emphasis in the procedure is very clearly on
getting improvement in the employee's record. This is
reflected in how the procedure operates. The procedure
provides more incentives and opportunities to the employee to
clear the warning from their record than most other
procedures. The Company agreed to the introduction of a
discussion stage to precede the formal warning stages. The
procedure also enables employees who sustain sufficient
improvement in their attendance to clear any warning from
their record i.e. after six months they will only be liable to
a repeat warning, if they sustain the improvement for twelve
months they will then be out of procedure.
5. The warning stages are set out clearly in the current
procedure and in the procedure that operated prior to 1979.
Nowhere in these stages, or, anywhere in the procedure, is
there any time scale set down that limits when the Company can
issue a warning. Indeed, the stages provide for a further
warning to be given if sufficient improvement does not take
place following a warning. The reference to six months and
twelve months in the procedure relates only to the length of
time that a warning remains on the record.
6. The Lates and Absence Procedure was agreed in 1977.
Since its introduction, warnings have been given when they
have been warranted. At no stage has the practice ever been
to only issue warnings at the end of a six month period.
Neither the original procedure in 1977 or the revised
procedure in 1979 states that warnings can only be given six
months from the previous warning. For ten years the practice
of issuing warnings has operated on the basis that it was
originally agreed and implemented.
7. There are adequate safeguards built into the procedure.
Any individual who the Company believes should receive a
warning for absenteeism has the right to dispute the severity
of the warning. A disputed warning can be progressed fully
through the procedure and if necessary to a Rights
8. The Company exports 70% of all production from the
Dublin site to the U.K. where it must compete with
manufacturers who have lower costs on labour, raw materials,
energy, packing materials, transport, insurance etc. High
absenteeism adds to this unfavourable competitive position.
The average absenteeism for 1987 in the Dublin factory was
13.6%. In the most labour intensive department in Dublin, the
Flake area, absenteeism levels were:-
Day Shift - 17%
E.P.T. Shift - 16%
2 Shift - 10%
Nights - 9%
9. The absence level in the Dublin plant is 300% higher
than the Company's major U.K. competitor and is one of the
factors that has resulted in the U.K. factories being 25%
cheaper in labour costs per tonne, 15% more productive in
tonnes per employee and 17% more plant efficient.
10. In order to control absenteeism, it is essential that
warnings are given at the time when an individual has an
unacceptable attendance pattern. To operate in any other way
would have the effect of continuing to allow unacceptable
attendance to continue for long periods of time without the
Company having the right to take action.
4. 1. The preamble of the Agreement provides that initially
the procedures work, or should work, on an informal basis. In
it the Company states that it accepts its responsibility to
assist employees who are forced to be absent through no fault
of their own because of genuine health problems. It also
states that where discussions take place they will not form
any part of disciplinary procedures and where the Company is
satisfied a problem exists, no disciplinary action will be
taken against the employee.
2. From the discussion stage the Agreement moves through
another four stages and in the Unions' view this is where the
real problem exists. Up to last year there were very few
problems with the stage warning with the exception of the
dispute settled by LCR9726. Workers were stage warned when
necessary with shop stewards disputing the warnings if they
felt they were too severe. The whole purpose of the system
was geared towards improving attendance and generally helping
with whatever problems the workers might have. However, in
recent months the Company has totally deviated from the norm
and is now warning workers even where it can be clearly shown
that they are making an honest effort to attend work and to
improve their attendance record.
3. The Company is also trying to speed up the agreed
procedures by issuing second stage warning before sufficient
time has been afforded to workers to rehabilitate themselves.
Workers are being second stage warned even in cases where
their attendance is improving. The Unions believe that this
is grossly unfair and totally against the spirit of the
4. The Unions believe that a particular staging should last
for a six month period and that a worker's record should be
monitored for that period. Furthermore, no other sanction
should be taken against a worker while he/she is in a stage
warning. Help and assistance should be rendered rather than
further punishment, particularly when workers are making every
effort to attend work, despite the fact that they may have
some domestic problems.
5. It must be made quite clear that the Unions are not
trying to pave the way for people to abuse the system in the
Company. On the contrary, they have offered every assistance
in making an effort to reduce absenteeism but the Company
seems to favour the stick method by pushing the workers
quickly through the staging process, eventually leading to
their dismissal and loss of livelihood.
6. The issue before the Court is the interpretation of the
Agreement. The Unions believe that should the Company's
interpretation and present attitude towards the Agreement
continue, genuinely sick workers will be dismissed from the
7. The Unions contend that both the letter and spirit of
the Agreement means:-
- that a person on a stage warning should be allowed
run the full six months and then have their record
- that the Company should not bring workers in and
second and third stage warn them while they are
still in the first six months of a stage warning.
- that the Company by second and third stage warning
workers, within the first six months of a warning,
is totally in breach of the Agreement.
5. The Court finds that the Company's interpretation is correct
and recommends accordingly.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
John M Horgan
29th January, 1988 ----------------