INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(2), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
BOXMORE PLASTICS LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
1. Interpretation of Clause 28.4 of the Company/Union Agreement and matters connected thereto which arose between the Company and Union on 23rd January, 1996.
2. The Company is located in Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan and manufactures plastic bottles. There are approximately 140 workers represented by the Union. The dispute concerns the level of Union representation at meetings.
At a conciliation conference on 23rd January, 1996 with the Labour Relations Commission, there were 2 items on the agenda - the application of the maintenance rate, and the 39-hour week. The Union Official, Shop Steward and an aggrieved member were present when the issue of the maintenance rate was discussed, and the Shop Steward, 2 shift representatives and an aggrieved member were present in relation to the 39-hour week issue. A further Union member returned to work. The Company objected to the number of Union delegates at the conciliation conference. One of the shift representatives changed from night shift to 4.00 p.m. - 12.00. He was not paid for time spent at the conciliation conference.
The dispute was jointly referred to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 20(2) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969, - by the Union on 31st January, 1996, and by the Company on 1st February, 1996. A Labour Court hearing took place on 17th June, 1996, in Galway.
3. 1. Clause 28.4 of the Company/Union Agreement clearly states that the Union Official, Shop Steward, shift representative and aggrieved employee or a representative of aggrieved employees shall attend third party hearings. Previous cases referred by the Union to third parties had the same number of representatives as in this case, and the Company did not object.
2. The Company has always allowed representatives to change shifts, without loss of pay, to attend third party hearings. The worker concerned in this case should be compensated for his loss of pay.
4. 1. Clause 28.4 provides for a specific level of representation at third party hearings. At the conciliation conference on 23rd January, 1996, only 2 workers should have been in attendance apart from the Shop Steward - a shift representative and a member of the maintenance group. Either of these 2 workers could have acted as the "member of the group of aggrieved employees" in relation to the 39-hour week issue.
2. In general, if a shift representative or an aggrieved employee representative is a member of more than one group of aggrieved employees, this representative will cover all issues being dealt with at third party hearings.
The Court finds that the parties, since the signing of the agreement, have had differing interpretations of Clause 28.4. This, the Court finds, was not unreasonable, given the method of operations of the Company and the ambiguity of the wording.
Further, the Court finds that representation by the Union was accepted at meetings before third parties, albeit with reluctance and protest from the Company.
The Court has considered all of the views put forward by the parties, and concludes that the shift workers should be represented by a representative (1).
Accordingly, representation before third party hearings should consist of Union official (1), Shop Steward (1), Shift representation (1) and aggrieved employee (1) or a member of a group of aggrieved employees (1). The Court so interprets Clause 28.4 of the Company/Union Agreement.
Recognising the problems which have arisen with the interpretation of the Clause, the Court would recommend that the parties discuss it with a view to eliminating any ambiguity, whilst at the same time ensuring that the employees are provided with adequate representation, costs are contained and factory efficiency is not impaired.
Further, the Court, in the interests of maintaining a good industrial relations climate, recommends that the employee concerned be paid on this occasion.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
29th July, 1996______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.