INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
FORAS AISEANNA SAOTHAIR (FAS)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
1. 1. PCW talks.
2. Use of temporary instructors.
2. The parties have been engaged in restructuring talks under Clause 2(iii) A of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work (PCW) for approximately two years. Difficulties arose in November, 1995, and the Union withdrew from the talks and introduced embargoes. In January, 1996, the talks recommenced with the assistance of the FAS Mediation Panel. In May, 1996, a proposed restructuring package was rejected by the workers. The Union sought to reopen discussions but Management was not prepared to do so while the embargoes were in place. One of the embargoes involved the Union's refusal to allow the use of temporary instructors to cover for annual leave. At the beginning of July, 1996, the Union served strike notice on FAS. Under the chairmanship of the FAS Mediation Panel an agreement was concluded on 5th July, 1996.
On 11th July, 1996, Management informed the Union that, due to a significant backlog of apprentices awaiting commencement of Phase 2 of their training, it proposed engaging a small number of temporary instructors to run additional Phase 2 classes. On 14th August, 1996, the Union rejected Management's proposal. The Union had also not agreed to accept Management's proposal to assign instructors to assist with apprenticeship monitoring. FAS considered this to be a new embargo imposed by the Union and a breach of the 5th July, 1996, agreement. FAS then suspended the PCW negotiations.
The Union referred the issue of PCW talks to the Labour Relations Commission for conciliation, while the Company referred the issue of temporary instructors. A conciliation conference was held on 6th September, 1996, but agreement on the issues in dispute could not be reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on 25th September, 1996.
3. 1. The agreement of 5th July, 1996, commits both parties to conclude the PCW discussions in an atmosphere of complete industrial peace and to fully observe agreed procedures. Management's withdrawal from the talks and failure to comply with agreed procedures is a clear breach of the agreement.
2. The 1984 agreement on the use of temporary instructors is quite specific and does not apply to the current situation. The agreement of 5th July, 1996, precludes the introduction of changes related to the restructuring talks on a piecemeal basis and, therefore, the Union cannot accept Management's proposal.
3. No discussion on the use of temporary instructors or monitoring of pilot schemes of new apprenticeships took place at conciliation. However, if FAS returns to the PCW restructuring talks, any problems can be resolved in accordance with the agreed procedures.
4. 1. Temporary instructors have been used in FAS (previously AnCo) since 1984. As an emergency measure to alleviate a backlog of apprentices waiting to start Phase 2 of their apprenticeship, FAS proposes engaging a small number of temporary instructors to run additional classes. The assignment of two employees in each of two regions is also required to assist with the clearance of a backlog of monitoring work.
2. The Union undertook to lift all embargoes and restrictions and not to impose any new restrictions under the terms of the agreement of 5th July, 1996. Complete industrial peace was also to be maintained. The Union's refusal to co-operate with Management's proposals was a breach of the agreement and, as there was no longer industrial peace, the basis for continuing the restructuring talks no longer existed.
3. FAS has obligations to both the apprentices and to their employers to ensure that apprentices are properly trained and complete all phases in a planned, orderly and systematic manner. The Union's co-operation in dealing with the backlogs will allow the immediate resumption of the PCW restructuring talks.
The Court, having considered fully the submissions of both parties, is of the view that the process of inevitable changes required in the organisation creates problems for both sides and the current impasse is symptomatic of these difficulties.
In order to progress these matters the Court recommends that, in the circumstances, the Union agrees to the recruitment of temporary staff to clear the backlog of training in the apprenticeship schemes discussed at the hearing and also co-operates with monitoring assignments as outlined to the Court.
The Court also recommends that Management should immediately re-open the negotiations under the terms of the PCW with the intention of concluding within three months.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
9th October, 1996______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.