INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
DAIRYGOLD CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY LIMITED
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr McGrath
Employer Member: Mr Brennan
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. (1) Appointment of assistant manager
(2) Appointment to managerial positions
2. In August, 1990, Ballyclough and Mitchelstown Co-operatives merged to form Dairygold Co-operative Society Limited. Prior to the merger, there were 4 distribution systems operating independently, namely Mitchelstown Creameries, Galtee Bacon, CMP Dairies and Ballyclough Co-op Sales. There were 14 distribution depots located around the country.
Following the merger it was decided that all of the Society's consumer products would be distributed from 3 distribution depots, namely Dublin, Mitchelstown and Cork. Staff from the previous 4 distribution systems were considered for appointment in the new structure and those deemed suitable were appointed.
The dispute concerns 2 issues. The first concerns the appointment of an assistant manager at the sales and distribution warehouse (distribution division) at Mitchelstown. The position was advertised in October, 1996 and the assistant manager was appointed on 1st November, 1996. The worker appointed was a member of SIPTU. The Union wrote to the Society objecting to the appointment, based on the fact that the worker concerned was not the most senior applicant. The Union requested that the worker be removed from the position.
A number of meetings followed, with staff at the Mitchelstown depot agreeing to work and co-operate with the assistant manager under protest. This position continued up to 3rd February, 1997. The Society contacted the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) and arranged a conciliation conference for the 4th February, 1997. A general meeting of SIPTU was held on 31st January, 1997. The following day the Union informed the Society that the assistant manager had been expelled from the Union and that staff would no longer co-operate with him. The Union also stated that it would not attend the conciliation conference unless the assistant manager was removed from his position. The Society agreed to remove him and the post remains vacant.
The second issue involves appointment to managerial positions in general. The Union's position is that the most senior person available should be appointed. The Society maintains that it has the right to appoint the most suitable candidate.
As the parties did not reach agreement at the conciliation conference on the 4th February, 1997, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 11th February, 1997, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 12th March, 1997, in Cork.
3. 1. It has long been custom and practice that any vacancies arising in what was Mitchelstown Co-operative were first advertised in the Co-op's Mitchelstown factory and in the Dublin depot. Should there be no applicants in these areas, the vacancies would then be advertised on a wider basis. In the present dispute, the Society first advertised the position on a widespread basis. When the Union asked the Society to advertise the position in accordance with normal practice, the Society refused. The person appointed was junior in service to many of the applicants for the position. The Chief Executive of the Society guaranteed all employees at the time of the merger that all existing agreements would not be changed without consultation and agreement. Many changes have taken place since the merger but all have been by agreement.
2. When the present Society/Union procedural agreement was negotiated in the mid 1980's, seniority was included in paragraph 9 as follows:-
(a) "Management will give full recognition to Seniority as operated heretofore in respect of the following:-
- Lay off of employees
- Call back
- Enforced redundancies
(b) All other aspects of seniority will be further discussed and in the meantime there will be no change in the present situation."
Paragraph 9(b) of the agreement was specifically written to cover issues such as job appointments, as all jobs were filled on a seniority basis. Had the Society consulted with the Mitchelstown branch of the Union, the present conflict could have been avoided as the Union would have made clear that the proposed action was unacceptable. At least 3 salaried positions which arose in recent years were filled by the senior applicant. The Union is willing to discuss with the Society a new agreement covering the general question of managerial appointments.
4. 1. The position at the Mitchelstown depot was a management one and, as such, was not covered by the terms of the procedural agreement. The Society has the right to appoint the most suitable person to a management position. The Union stated that the position of assistant manager was advertised on a wider basis than the dairy division (formerly Mitchelstown Creameries). The distribution division is not part of the dairy division but of Dairygold Foods, which distributes dairy, meat and fresh dairy products. These products are manufactured at Mitchelstown, Mallow and CMP and Galtee Bacon and distributed from the 3 new depots. As such, the Society was entitled to advertise the vacancy outside the dairy division.
2. The seniority clause of the procedural agreement in relation to appointments applied to all grades up to supervisory level. It was not meant to apply to appointments to management positions. The Society operates in a very competitive market. It must be allowed to appoint the most suitable people to management positions if it is to remain competitive.
The Court has fully considered all of the issues raised by the parties in their oral and written submissions and finds:-
1. that there was an agreement in Mitchelstown to appoint the most senior man to vacant promotional posts,
2. that at the merger talks the Company had guaranteed that all agreements would not be changed without consultation and agreement,
3. that this agreement had been extended in the past to managerial positions,
4. that the Company, in relation to previous appointments to managerial positions in sales, had sought and agreed on suitability and not seniority being the criterion on which the appointments would be made,
5. that the manner in which the assistant manager concerned in this dispute was appointed was contrary to the agreement between the Company and the Union.
Given the above, and the more open advertising of posts as a consequence of the merger, the Court recommends:-
1. that the parties discuss and agree the criteria to be applied in the filling of vacancies, particularly those above supervision grade,
2. that they seek to put in place an agreement within a period of one month,
3. that the post be advertised and filled in accordance with this agreement,
4. that in the interim the post remains vacant.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
26th March, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.