INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
MERKEL ECONOMOS IRELAND LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
1. Restoration of sick pay benefits.
2. The Company is a subsidiary of Martin Merkel Gmbh, Hamburg and has been located in Cookstown Industrial Estate since 1980. It manufactures various types of braided packing and seals for the engineering industry.
Up to 1992, general workers had 2 weeks' sick pay during a rolling year. Clerical workers had 13 weeks. After a claim by the Union in 1992 it was agreed to equalise sick pay across the Company. From September 1993 general workers received 6 weeks' sick pay and from September 1994 they received up to 13 weeks. The scheme was to be reviewed yearly.
The Company claims that shortly after the scheme was introduced the level of absenteeism started to rise. Management spoke to the workers a number of times in 1995. At a meeting in August 1995, Management stated that unless the level of absenteeism dropped it would revert to the position that prevailed in 1992 i.e. 2 weeks' sick pay for general workers: When the absenteeism did not improve the scheme reverted to 6 weeks in February 1996. In August, 1996, the Company sought to revert it to 2 weeks. The Union indicated that it would ballot for industrial action.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference took place on 5th June, 1996. As the parties did not reach agreement the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on 10th July, 1996, in accordance with Section 26(1), Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on 9th September, 1996.
3. 1. The Company's decision to revert the terms of the sick-pay scheme was unilateral. It is in breach of the Company/Union grievance/dispute procedures. The decision is indiscriminate as it affects all the general workers in the production area.
2. A major factor in the increase in absenteeism is due to accidents in the workplace e.g. 4 workers were absent for a total of 171 days with injuries such as a broken wrist, a dislocated shoulder, etc. The Union is willing to examine the causes behind the increase in absence levels and to seek a solution to the problem.
4. 1. The increase in absenteeism began shortly after the improved sick-pay scheme was introduced. The agreement in September 1993 stated that the Company could review the situation. The Company met the workers on a number of occasions in 1995 and explained that if the situation did not improve it would revert to the terms of the sick-pay scheme of 1992. As there was no improvement, the Company was left with no choice but to do so.
2. The Company is relatively small and operates in a very competitive market. Any increase in absenteeism places additional costs on the Company. It is presently bearing an additional cost of £45,000 per annum due to the present level of absenteeism. Prior to 1992 absence levels were below 5% per annum. It is now 10.62%. The abuse of the system is widespread. The Company offers a number of bonus incentives to employees to attend work.
The Court, having considered the written and oral submissions made by the parties, is satisfied that it was clearly understood that the new scheme would be reviewed if there was a marked increase in sickness levels within the Group.
It is clear that despite the Company communication on absenteeism levels there continues to be a serious increase in absenteeism.
The Court is satisfied that the Company has done all it can in the circumstances and is justified in taking the position it has, given the original basis of the change in sick pay arrangements.
However, the Court recommends that the changes to the scheme date from 1 October, 1996 and that individuals affected between February, 1996 and 1 October, 1996 be the subject of discussions between the parties.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
30th September, 1996______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.