Labour Court Database
File Number: CD88110
Case Number: LCR11721
Section / Act: S67
Parties: CAVAN COUNTY COUNCIL - and - IRISH TRANSPORT AND GENERAL WORKERS' UNION
Dispute concerning the council's policy regarding short-time working.
5. 1. The Court in arriving at its decision in this case took
(a) the provision of the "Programme for National Recovery",
(b) Department of the Environment Circular Letter LA(P)
(c) the Code of Practice on Security of Employment, 1985,
(d) the financial position of Cavan County Council.
5. 2. It is clear in the Programme for National Recovery, that
the parties who drew up and signed that agreement, considered
that redundancies in the Public Service were to be achieved on
a voluntary basis. Circular Letter 20/87, headed "Voluntary
Redundancy/Early Retirement terms for Local Authority Staff,"
submitted by the Union side states that having regard to the
voluntary nature of the scheme that the Minister considers
that the implementation of the voluntary redundancy/early
retirement terms in Local Authorities must as a priority
assist in bringing about a situation whereby measures such as
enforced lay-off and short-time working are no longer
necessary. The circular referred to in (c) above further asks
Managers to co-operate with the terms of the Code of Practice
which states "it is recommended that employees who have
achieved permanent statue should not be subject to lay-offs,
short-time working or redundancy." (Clause 3.2).
3. The Court is of the view that the proposals from Cavan
County Council to put certain employees on short-time/lay-off
as outlined in the submission to the Court and which could be
construed as "constructive" redundancy through short-time
working may be in breach of the terms of the Plan for National
Recovery (Section 2 Paragraph 11) and Circular LA(F) 20/87.
4. In view of the above and notwithstanding the financial
difficulties of Cavan County Council, the Court recommends
concession of the Union's claim in relation to the
introduction of short-time work for 6 craftsmen.
Division: Ms Owens Mr Shiel Mr O'Murchu
Text of Document__________________________________________________________________
CD88110 RECOMMENDATION NO. LCR11721
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1976
PARTIES: CAVAN COUNTY COUNCIL
IRISH TRANSPORT AND GENERAL WORKERS' UNION
1. Dispute concerning the council's policy regarding short-time
2. In January, 1988 the Council informed the Union that due to
budgetary constraints it was necessary to extend the short-time
working, which already applied to 150 general operatives, to five
fitters and one electrician. The short-time working was to
commence on 7th March, 1988. The Union objected to the proposal
as none of the workers concerned were prepared to accept any form
of short-time working. It claimed that the Council's policy on
short-time working was in breach of the Programme for National
Recovery and the Code of Practice and should be withdrawn. The
Council rejected the claim. No agreement was reached through
local negotiations and on 22nd January, 1988 the matter was
referred to the conciliation service of the Labour Court. A
conciliation conference was held on 11th February, 1988 but no
agreement was reached. On 16th February, 1988 the case was
referred to the Court for investigation and recommendation. A
Labour Court hearing was held on 23rd February, 1988.
3. 1. The Programme for National Recovery is now in place since
19th November, 1987 as a tripartite agreement between ICTU,
Government and Employers on issues ranging from hours of work
and wages to job creation and income tax. While the
Government clearly indicated their intention to cut-back on
the number of people employed in the public service, this goal
was only to be achieved through voluntary redundancy and/or
Clause 11 (Section II) of the main document enshrining the
terms of the Programme for National Recovery is as follows:-
" In realising their budgetary targets, the Government are
committed to the need for the achievement of a reduction in
the number of public service employees. They are committed
to achieving this reduction on a voluntary basis. They are
confident that the comprehensive voluntary arrangements
they have introduced will achieve the reductions sought.
3. 1. If in practice, however, the take-up of these voluntary
arrangements does not enable the Government's budgetary and
structural objectives to be met, the Government will review
the position but, in doing so, they undertake to consult
fully with the ICTU. Such prior consultation will take
place under the review mechanism provided for in the
This is underpinned by the letter of 15th October, 1987 from
the Minister for the Environment, just as the Unions commenced
their balloting of members on the Programme for National
Recovery, to the effect that there would be no compulsory
lay-offs, redundancies, or short-time working in Local
2. Redundancy, compulsory or voluntary, in the public service
was not part of the Programme for National Recovery but was a
expenditure on the public service wages. If the Council's
proposal is implemented, it will lead to redundancy for some
of the workers concerned. This may arise from either a
decision by the members that they cannot live on reduced
income and/or insecurity of employment, or the privatisation
of some of the Council's services leading directly to
3. The Council's policy concerning short-time working can be
construed as a form of constructive dismissal and is a clear
breach of the Code of Practice on Security of Employment drawn
up in November, 1985.
4. The Union's main argument revolves around the Government's
commitment to job security in the public service which help
make the overall Programme for National Recovery look
attractive. Union members voted for the Programme for
National Recovery knowing that it meant three years of
substantial pay restraint but public service employees also
expected that it represented security of employment, unless
they wished to leave voluntarily.
5. The proposed short-time working in Cavan County Council
arises directly and solely from a Government decision to
restrict the amount of money available to the Council for road
works. The workers do not accept that this is a good reason
why they should be required to make further sacrifices.
6. All of the workers concerned are permanent staff and stand
to lose superannuation days if forced into short-time working.
This is something which would not occur in the private sector.
4. 1. Because of the severity of cut-backs this year, it is
necessary to introduce short-time working for certain
craftsmen who have not been effected up to this.
4. 2. If short-time working were precluded under the programme
then there would be a specific statement to this effect in it.
The introduction of short-time does not involve any permanent
reduction in numbers.
3. The Council reviews the whole question of short-time
working on an on-going basis. It aims to try to reduce or
eliminate short-time working through the operation of the
voluntary redundancy package or additional funding which might
4. The Council rejects the Union's contention that a de facto
redundancy situation exists. It intends to introduce a 3 days
on/2 days off system of short-time working. The workers are
not covered by Section 11(2) of the Redundancy Payments Acts
as their earnings are not less than half their normal earnings
or the hours worked by them are not less than half their
normal working week. The workers would be precluded from
seeking a redundancy payment.
5. A number of other local authorities have found it
necessary to introduce a system of lay-off or short-time for