INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
1. The redeployment of 2 fitters.
2. The dispute arose following the closure of the Company's Engineering workshop facility, the Lough Gill workshop, at Hazelwood, Sligo. The workers concerned who have service of 20 years and 12 years, respectively, were offered 3 options for redeployment, as follows:-
1. Participation in an autonomous work group (AWG), qualifying for a £3,000 lump sum;
2. Redeployment to general forest work whilst holding their rate of pay;
3. The operation of an autonomous work group, with cable and extraction equipment, qualifying for a £3,000 lump sum.
A voluntary early retirement option was also to be made available to the workers if they so required.
The above options were rejected by the Union on the grounds that it sought "more suitable work" for the fitters. 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 29th of May, 1996, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation on the 29th of August, 1996.
3. 1. None of the 3 positions offered by the Company is suitable because they would all involve a down-grading/de-skilling for the fitters. There could be a resultant loss of earnings given that their skills are mechanical and they have no experience of working in the forest. The cable and extract option has been judged not to be viable by other workers who were consulted.
2. Suitable redeployment is being sought for the two workers. This should reflect their skill levels and should give them the opportunity to continue at a similar skill level or at a higher skill level.
3. The Company's failure to provide suitable redeployment is creating a situation of enforced redundancy. As this is clearly not a voluntary redundancy situation the package on offer would need to be substantially improved before it could be considered.
4. The position of Area Foreman, Inventory Operative or Safety Officer could have been offered to the fitters, if reasonable goodwill had been shown by the Company. Instead, the Company engineered a situation whereby the options open to the fitters have been narrowed, i.e., the Area Foreman position was filled prior to the decision to close the workshop and the Inventory Operative posts were filled by selection of other members of the workforce even though the fitters had expressed interest in those positions.
5. It appears to be the Company's intention to reduce the skilled jobs available to the two fitters in order to force them to accept a severance package which was not negotiated or designed to deal with their particular situation.
4. 1. The Company appreciates the difficulties and upheaval which the closure of the workshop poses for the employees concerned. Accordingly, every reasonable effort has been made to accommodate them with suitable alternative work (details supplied to the Court). Additionally, full support has been promised to them in the form of any necessary training and, where the option involves embracing production-linked payment systems, a payment of £3,000 is available to them.
2. In the most recent case involving similar circumstances (the rationalisation of the Company's sawmills at Cong, Co. Mayo) 3 members of staff were offered redeployment. Following investigation of the matter by a Rights Commissioner, and subsequently by the Labour Court, the Company's position was upheld.
3. The workers concerned, through re-skilling, are being offered continued employment on the basis of options which not only offer a guarantee to them of their existing earnings but which also provide for a generous lump sum and the prospect of increased earnings through production-linked payment systems.
Taking into account all of the circumstances of the case, it is the view of the Court that the Company proposals are not unreasonable.
However, the Court believes that every consideration should be given to the claimants in preparing them for their new roles.
The Court, therefore, recommends as follows:-
(1) The Employees to accept one of the options on offer;
(2) In the event that the claimants accept either option 1 or option 3 (A.W. Groups), the Company to guarantee their present earnings for a period of 12 months.
The Court further recommends that, if either or both of the claimants wish to consider Voluntary Redundancy, then discussions on a package should take place between the parties.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
23rd September, 1996______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.