INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
AMALGAMATED TRANSPORT AND GENERAL WORKERS' UNION
1. Compensation for lay-off.
2. The dispute concerns a claim for compensation on behalf of approximately 900 production workers for losses suffered by them as a result of being laid off during a period of unofficial industrial action taken by a group of craft workers at the TimeOut 2 plant.
The industrial action of the craftworkers commenced on the 15th of December, 1995 and, on the 22nd of December, the Company issued a written notification to all staff appraising them of the situation. The staff were also advised that if, on the 3rd of January, 1996, following the Christmas break, the fitters were to continue to withdraw their labour, then the Company would have no option but to lay off all remaining factory employees.
On the 3rd of January, the fitters walked off the floor and, subsequently, the production workers were laid off (on Thursday the 4th of January).
The craft workers' dispute ended on Friday the 5th of January and the Company considered that it would not be practicable to resume the start-up of the plant until the following Monday, the 8th. The Unions are seeking compensation for the production staff for losses incurred from 10.00 p.m. on Thursday the 4th to 7 a.m. on Monday the 8th of January, 1996. The Company claims that the lay offs were unavoidable and rejected the claim for compensation.
The dispute was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, at which agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court, on the 2nd of May, 1996, in accordance with Section 26(1) of The Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation on the 20th of May, 1996.
3. 1. The production workers would not normally expect to be compensated for lay-off due to unofficial industrial action because such a situation would be outside of the control of the Company. However, they believe that this case was not a genuine lay-off situation, but was contrived by the Company in order to bring the matter of the fitters' dispute to a head.
2. The production workers are innocent victims of the fitters' dispute and have incurred considerable financial loss. Had the Company taken action against the fitters in December, 1995, the dispute could have been resolved without affecting many, if any, of the production workers.
3. By taking action when it did (immediately after the Christmas holidays) the Company must have been aware that it would be more difficult to obtain full plant efficiency. The haste with which the Company laid off the production staff contrasts greatly with that delay in dealing with the fitters. Had the Company resumed work with similar haste, the production workers' losses would have been mitigated and, in some cases, avoided altogether. Some of the workers actually received no notice of lay-off and, in most cases, notice of only one day was given.
4. 1. The unofficial industrial action started on the 15th December, 1995 but the Company did not take action until over a week later (excluding the Christmas closedown). In normal circumstances the situation would have been brought to a head when the initial industrial action was taken. However the Company held off in order to avoid hardship to employees at Christmas and to try and use the time to resolve the situation.
2. The circumstances of the dispute, when it did take place, were quite different to previous situations. The eventual dispute took place in a start-up situation after an 11-day close down period and not in a normal running situation. Start-up, after a closedown, can be quite difficult, the plant having been idle for such a long period. As a result, the consequences of the industrial action were brought to a head more quickly. The whole set of circumstances were different to any normal situation and, therefore, do not bear comparison.
3. Work could not be resumed on Friday the 5th instead of Monday the 8th as there was the difficulty of notifying staff late on Friday afternoon to come in on Friday night. When production did restart, the TimeOut plant did not get going until Tuesday afternoon. In the circumstances, the Company's decision was fully justified.
4. There is no guarantee in relation to lay-offs in the case of industrial action. Such industrial action results in serious losses for the Company as well as employees. While the Company has always tried to deal with the consequences of industrial action as fairly as possible, by keeping all employees informed and acting to try and minimise the effects, it has to assess the effects on the business and, accordingly, there can be no guarantees. There is no basis, therefore, for seeking compensation on the grounds that the Company's handling of this case was different to its handling of other cases in the past.
5. In the current extremely difficult competitive climate, the effects of industrial action are made more acute and more difficult for the Company to sustain. In this case, there is the additional factor of the industrial action putting the Time Out 2 investment at risk. In such circumstances, there is a very strong economic argument against even doing what the Company did in this situation, i.e., holding off prior to Christmas and running its operations on the second day even though the condition of the plants did not justify this. In any such situations, account has to be taken of the long-term effect on the business.
6, Any payment to this group would have a knock on effect to all the other groups on site who were laid off, i.e., electricians, trades helpers, painters, carpenters, boilermen.
In all the circumstances of the case the Court has concluded that it cannot recommend payment of compensation, as claimed.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
6th June, 1996______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.