INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
VOLEX INTERCONNECT LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
1. Alleged non-compliance with terms of agreement on lay-off of temporary workers.
2. Volex Interconnect Limited manufactures cable harnesses for the computer industry. The Company employees approximately 170 permanent employees and a considerable number of temporary workers to deal with demand as and when it arises.
The dispute before the Court concerns five temporary workers who were laid-off by the Company in March, 1996. The Union claims that the Company's method of selection for lay-off is in breach of an agreement reached in 1993 in relation to the lay-off of temporary workers (details supplied to the Court). The Company's position is that the agreement referred to by the Union was an exchange of correspondence and that the five workers concerned had less than six months service and were still on probation.
There is no disagreement between the parties in relation to Clause 6 (probationary period) of the Company/Union Agreement of 1986.
The matter was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference took place on 1st May, 1996. As agreement could not be reached the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on 11th June, 1996 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place in Sligo on 24th July, 1996.
3. 1. The intent and principle of the 1993 Agreement is that when all things are equal, decisions in relation to the retention of temporary workers would be influenced by the length of service. Management ignored the terms of the Agreement in selecting the workers concerned for lay-off.
2. The workers concerned had longer service than a number of their colleagues who were retained in employment.
3. The production assembly operator grade has approximately 20 different functions and a common rate of pay applies for the job. New recruits in this area become proficient in the operation by observing and following instructions from long-term employees.
4. Management's view that workers engaged on a particular line can be affected by lay-off when work ends on that particular line is unacceptable to the Union.
5. The Company/Union agrees that in order to remain competitive all employees must be flexible and become proficient in all aspects of the work. It is unacceptable for management to operate this principle in a selective way. Management is responsible for ensuring that all employees are given the opportunity to become proficient in all the different functions, affording some protection to the workers when selection for lay-off is made.
4. 1. The Company must be in a position to respond quickly to customer requirements and equally a down-turn in business. Companies regularly change the profile of their order. This requires a great deal of flexibility on the Company's part.
2. The number of temporary workers employed fluctuates constantly and lay-offs are a regular feature. The 1993 exchange of correspondence was a recognition that there was a considerable number of long term temporaries employed at that time, some with more than 1 years service in employment and that this service should be taken into account in lay-off situations.
3. The workers who were laid-off in March, 1996 had less than 6 months service and were still on probation. The agreement on seniority does not apply in such cases. The probation period affords the Company the opportunity to look at all aspects of an employees performance.
4. The Union's claim cannot be justified. Clause 6 of the Company/Union Agreement states that for the first 6 months, the Company has the right to decide on the suitability of an employee and that employment can be terminated during that period without recourse to disciplinary procedures.
The Court is fully cognisant of the constraints on the Company and the need to maintain performance to ensure continued competitive advantage.
However, it is clear to the Court that as a consequence of difficulties in the past an understanding did exist with regard to effecting lay-off.
The Court notes that the parties are fully committed to the Company/Union Agreement in particular Clause 6 (probationary period).
The Court considers that this Clause should not be used for the purpose of lay-offs and that the parties should put in place an acceptable arrangement to improve the security/continuity of employment for the workers whilst at the same time providing the Company with the flexibility necessary to accommodate the dictates of the fluctuating market.
In all the circumstances the Court does not consider compensation appropriate in this case.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
28th August, 1996______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.