Labour Court Database
File Number: CD88956
Case Number: AD8926
Section / Act: S13(9)
Parties: SWITZERS AND COMPANY LIMITED - and - IRISH DISTRIBUTIVE AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRADE UNION
Recommendation BC 273/88 concerning an inconvenience claim on behalf of approximately 36 employees in the Company's Waterford Glass and China Departments.
Having considered the submissions made by the parties, the Court
agrees with the Right's Commissioner's findings and accordingly rejects
the Company's appeal.
Division: Mr Fitzgerald Mr Heffernan Mr Devine
Text of Document__________________________________________________________________
CD88956 APPEAL DECISION NO. AD2689
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1976
PARTIES: SWITZERS AND COMPANY LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE FEDERATED UNION OF EMPLOYERS)
IRISH DISTRIBUTIVE AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRADE UNION
SUBJECT:1. Appeal by the Company against Rights Commissioner's
Recommendation BC 273/88 concerning an inconvenience claim on
behalf of approximately 36 employees in the Company's Waterford
Glass and China Departments.
2. On the 27th August, 1987, the Company's Grafton Street
premises was damaged by a fire which destroyed adjoining
buildings. The Union lodged a claim for #500 compensation per
person alleging that during subsequent repair work staff were
subjected to major disruption and inconvenience. This was
rejected by Management who claimed that every reasonable step was
taken to protect both staff and customers while the necessary
repairs were taking place and that any inconvenience caused was
minimal. Following the failure of local discussions, the Union
referred the claim to a Rights Commissioner for investigation and
recommendation. The Rights Commissioner, having investigated the
dispute on the 11th November, 1988, issued the
"I recommend that Switzers Limited should pay to each
full-time employee among the thirty six mentioned, the
sum of #150 ex-gratia payment by way of compensation for
the inconvenience suffered and in the context of the
co-operation given during the rather difficult period
following the Pamela Scott fire. A pro-rata payment
should be made to the part-time employees."
This recommendation was unacceptable to the Company who appealed
it to the Labour Court under Section 13(9) of the Industrial
Relations Act, 1969. A Court hearing was held on the 23rd
3. 1. Immediately after the fire, preliminary work was
carried out to make the premises safe and to allow for
further monitoring and investigation which would establish
the full extent of the damage caused by the fire.
2. The Company's Surveyors completed their investigation
and drew up a specification for the repair work which
needed to be done. This specification was completed and
put out for tender on 25th February, 1988. Before drawing
up the specification, the Surveyors were instructed by
Management to ensure clauses were entered into the
agreement which would ensure inconveniences to employees
and customers alike would be avoided. Special care was
taken when drawing up the contract to ensure that neither
water nor dust should enter the sales area (details
supplied to the Court).
3. The successful tender was not the least expensive one.
The Company followed the advice of its Surveyors and
selected the company which it felt could adhere to the
terms of the contract and carry out the work without
causing any inconvenience. The work which was scheduled
to last 20 weeks commenced on 20th June, 1988. Shortly
after the work commenced, the builder discovered that
preliminary investigation had under-estimated the extent
of the damage in the ceiling of the china room. The
ceiling which was originally going to be repaired, needed
to be replaced in its entirety. This unforeseen change of
plan caused some inconvenience to both employees and
4. Any complaints arising out of these unforeseen
inconveniences were immediately investigated and repair
work was halted and re-scheduled in order to facilitate
employees and customers. The Company was successful in
preventing water from entering the sales area. However,
on a few occasions, despite every effort made by
Management, dust did penetrate into the sales area. The
Company recognised this fact and the following measures
were offered to the employees who were affected by the
(1) Free duty cleaning of clothes affected by the dust.
(2) Free hair styling to employees who got dust in their
(3) Any member of staff who was unduly affected by the
dust was offered a temporary transfer to an alternative
No members of staff availed of these offers.
5. If an award against the Company is granted it will make it
necessary for the Company to carry out alterations and repair
work behind close doors in future. This will affect its
employees through lay-offs while the work is being carried out.
It will also affect its competitive edge in a competitive market
which could have far reaching implications on the job security of
over 500 employees working in the store.
6. It has been the policy of the Company to ensure that adequate
measures are taken to protect staff where re-building work is
necessary. This had been a matter of principle over many years
and compensatory payments have not been made, as a consequence.
The position was outlined to the Court in 1981 when I.T.G.W.U.
(No. 4) Branch claimed compensation for dust etc. arising from
the building of a fire stairs. The Court found favour with the
Company's position then and is respectfully requested to do so in
4. 1. During the renovation period, the staff experienced
the following problems:-
- falling sawdust and gravel,
- dripping tar from the archways in the Aynsley
- constant clouds of dust,
- wooden planks left in the middle of the floor,
- treatment of floor and ceiling with preservers which
caused unpleasant fumes resulting in headaches,
nausea, eye infections and sore throats.
Furthermore there are constant drilling and banging and
staff were in a generally tense state for fear of falling
2. All the workmen wore protective masks to avoid
inhalation of fumes and dust yet the staff were expected
to carry on the business, enduring customers complaints
about the noise and the dust.
3. Each morning, inches of dust had to be cleaned from
both the stock and the shelves. In addition, the stock
rooms were in a very bad condition and the staff had to
use them on a daily basis which necessitated a lot of
attention to their hair and clothing.
4. The workers concerned are entitled to a clean and safe
work place. This, however, was not the case during the
period of renovations. The Company has never denied that
inconvenience was caused although it has disputed the
level of such inconvenience. Although the Rights
Commissioner's Recommendation for #150 is significantly
less than the Union's original claim for #500, the workers
are agreeable to accept same and the Court is respectfully
requested to uphold the recommendation.
5. Having considered the submissions made by the parties, the
Court agrees with the Rights Commissioner's findings and
accordingly rejects the Company's appeal.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
21st March, 1989 Deputy Chairman.