Labour Court Database
File Number: CD90441
Case Number: LCR12975
Section / Act: S67
Parties: B. & I. LINE - and - SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Dispute concerning the operation of a time charter vessel.
5. The Court is of the view, that because of the difficult
financial position of the Company, the Union should withdraw its
objection to short term time charters on the understanding that
the Company address and negotiate on the outstanding anomaly
issues of salary and seniority within the terms of the 5 year
Division: Ms Owens Mr Brennan Mr O'Murchu
Text of Document__________________________________________________________________
CD90441 RECOMMENDATION NO. LCR12975
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1976
PARTIES: B. & I. LINE
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
1. Dispute concerning the operation of a time charter vessel.
2. All ships in the Company undergo either annual or bi-annual
overhaul which requires them coming out of service and entering
dry dock. This is usually for about 2/3 weeks, but a major
overhaul can run up to 2 months. In order to maintain the Company
service a ship is normally chartered. There are two types of
time charter - crewed ship,
bare boat charter - unmanned ship.
The RO/RO freight vessels are provided by Pandoro (P&O). The M.V.
"Bison" and the M.V. "Buffalo" are two such ships. The former is
crewed by B. & I. and and the latter by P. & O. The M.V. "Bison"
went into dry dock on Monday 31st July, 1990 until approximately
the 13th August, 1990 and the M.V. "Buffalo" is to go into dry
dock after that. On 27th July, 1990 the Company informed the
Union that the two ships were being replaced by the M.V. "Gunilla"
a Finnish ship with Finnish officers and crew. The use of the
M.V. "Gunilla" to replace the M.V. "Bison" was unacceptable to the
Union which objects to the use of time charters in such
situations. There is no dispute regarding the M.V. "Buffalo".
The Union's position is also that this issue is preceded by two
major claims, salary review and seniority. The Company's position
is that it is impossible to obtain bare boat charters for short
periods and the only vessel which Pandoro could obtain was the
M.V. "Gunilla". On 31st July, 1990 the matter was referred to the
conciliation service of the Labour Court. A conciliation
conference was held on 2nd August, 1990 at which agreement was not
reached and on 7th August, 1990 the matter was referred to the
Labour Court for investigation and recommendation. The Court
investigated the dispute on 8th August, 1990. A letter
recommendation was issued to the parties on 10th August, 1990.
3. 1. It has been Union policy for many years to try and retain
as many jobs as possible in the marine industry. To this end,
management has been told repeatedly that they should plan
accordingly. The current problem has arisen due to poor
planning and poor industrial relations management. All
commercial vessels are subject to planned maintenance and this
work is undertaken at least once a year. There was sufficient
time to plan how, when and where this work would be undertaken
and the need for the ship to be replaced on a scheduled
service. It is the Union's belief that management should have
had the details regarding dry docking the M.V. "Bison" six
months ago. It was not until 27th July, 1990 that the Union
was informed that the ship was going into dry dock on 31st
July, 1990 and was being replaced by the M.V. "Gunilla" with
Finnish officers and crew. Suggestions were made by the Union
to offset any problems given the firm mandate on time
charters. It appears that management knew of the problem of
the replacement ship and even though meetings on 'seniority'
had taken place in the previous week, the Company forgot to
tell the Union this. While one can accept that this is
possible, when one considers what happened with the M.V.
"Oleander" last summer and the costs the Company incurred, it
strains credibility to the absolute limits.
2. The salary review issue has already been long fingered and
no progress at all has been made (details supplied to the
Court). Management fails as they have done so often in the
past to grasp the fundamental, that a grievance left
unattended eventually becomes a dispute. Neither the salary
review issue nor the seniority problem will go away. However,
if the Union position on 'time charters' is to change, it will
only follow an improvement in management's approach to
industrial relations. The Union sought a flexible approach
from management in dealing with the seniority issue and
management responded by taking a principled stand. However,
now management wants the Union to throw away a principle.
Negotiations are impossible in this climate. It is ironic
that the present issue is a long term one which must be
decided on forthwith and yet if the Court was to issue its
recommendation immediately, by the time a meeting of the
workers was called and a ballot taken, the M.V. "Bison" would
be out of dry dock. This presupposes that the Union would
agree to 'time charters' in any circumstances.
4. 1. The Company has in recent years encountered severe
financial difficulties. The Government continued to finance
the Company on the basis of an across the board staff support
for the Company's viability plan. This support was given and
the plan agreed. This five year viability plan was to run
from January, 1988 and features of it such as the provisions
for redundancies and a three year pay freeze from July, 1986
enabled the Company to continue. In October, 1989 all unions
signed a pay agreement to run from July, 1989 to July, 1991
(details supplied to the Court). This pay deal was designed
to regulate the Company's cost structure while allowing for
phased pay increases and it also contains a 'no cost
increasing' clause. Both the viability plan and the pay
agreement incorporate co-operation of staff towards the
Company's cost effective operation.
2. It is impossible to obtain bare boat charter for short
periods. Sometimes it is possible to obtain time charter
vessels (without crew) for longer periods of time and the
Company has successfully done this. Significant changes have
taken place in the RO/RO freight service with the commencement
of the Company's viability plan in that the service is now
operated by Pandoro and the ships are therefore provided by
that company. It is the responsibility of Pandoro to provide
ships for the route/service in question and the only vessel
which they could obtain was the M.V. "Gunilla". Management
did not expect there would be any difficulty as it is not a B.
& I. ship, nor is it chartered by B. & I. It was not possible
to replace the M.V. "Bison" with another Pandoro vessel.
During the dry dock periods all officers continue to be fully
3. To man a bare boat charter would necessitate the
employment of extra staff and would add considerably to
Company costs. In any event it is not possible to obtain such
charters for short periods. To superimpose B. & I. officers
on the time charter vessel would involve duplication of costs
and the need to employ temporary officers. This course of
action, even though it is not a desirable option by the
Company and needs approval by the owners/charterers, has been
turned down by the Union. The short term charter of relief
vessels for dry dock periods is a long established practice
both in this Company and the shipping industry generally and
is necessary in order to maintain normal commercial
operations. In the current circumstances, the Company must
operate efficiently in the interest of all its employees and
the viability of the Company and the commercial agreement
which the Company has with Pandoro is a vital part of the
viability plan. The Company recognises and understands the
Union's objection to time charters for longer periods where
they replace existing vessels, but considers that short term
charters should not come into this category which is likened
to emergency cover.