INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
THE TRANSPORT SALARIED STAFF ASSOCIATION (TSSA)
Chairman: Mr McGrath
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Dispute concerning:
(i) Alleged breach of procedures;
(ii) Reimbursement of pay in respect of stoppage.
2. The dispute concerns the closure, in December, 1996, of the Company's "Railink" freight operation. The Union claims that the Company departed from procedure in announcing the closure prior to discussions with the Union. The Company's response is that the nature of the business and the relationship with customers dictated that the announcement had to be made to unions and customers simultaneously. A one-day stoppage took place on the 20th of December, 1996, involving approximately 500 of the Company's clerical/ administration personnel. The Union claims that workers directly affected by the closure (21) should be compensated financially by the Company and that all workers should be reimbursed the one day's pay lost as a result of the stoppage. The Company rejects both claims. 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 18th of February, 1997, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation on the 7th of April, 1997.
3. 1. The "Framework for Negotiation and Disputes Resolution" which was agreed and introduced in 1995 has been ignored by the Company. The Framework is designed for discussion and negotiation on all matters which arise affecting the Company and staff. It states, as follows: "no party shall take unilateral action on matters which have not been fully processed through these procedures" and that "no action, including change shall be taken by the Company prior to the expiry of one calendar month's written notice to the Trade Unions". In both respects, the Company has been in breach of the Framework.
2. The undermining of the "Framework" machinery by Company management has meant that the workers been doubly penalised by the loss of a number of positions and, by being forced to engage in retaliatory action, they have lost one day's pay.
3. There is no equity in a procedure where the Trade Union side must adhere to the agreed procedures and restrictions whereas, on the Company side, the machinery will always apply except when Company management determines that it should not for "commercial" or any other reason.
4. During the Labour Relations Commission discussions, the Company's representatives did not give any undertaking or guarantee that further unilateral action might not happen but indicated that in all instances where possible the machinery would be adhered to.
5. Before entering into further discussions on the Company's "Building for the Future" (Viability Plan) which entails the proposed suppression of in excess of 200 salaried positions, it is important that credibility is restored to the apparent protection offered by the agreed machinery. The Company must be compelled to remedy the situation by making a monetary award to the displaced workers, along with the payment of one day's pay to those who were forced to withdraw their labour on the 20th of December, 1996.
6. In the past, there has been a formula for compensation in respect of displaced staff whose employment was disturbed. A similar withdrawal from business by the CIE Group from the Irish Ferryways resulted in the payment to displaced grades of a "dissolution" payment of £500.
7. The Labour Court has fixed ex-gratia lump sum compensatory payments to workers displaced through the disturbance of their work in given situations (details supplied to the Court).
4. 1. The closure of the Railink business occurred as a result of unsustainable losses due to very considerable market pressures.
2. The Company acted responsibly and appropriately in relation to the particular commercial sensitivity of the decision to withdraw from Railink.
3. All of those associated with Railink business would have been aware over a long period of time that this business was under a very serious threat.
4. The Company, throughout discussions, has asserted its willingness to deal with the implications of the Railink closure decision fully and reasonably in respect of all of the staff concerned.
5. The Company and SIPTU successfully dealt with the consequences of the Railink decision within agreed procedures and without resort to industrial action, in respect of operative grades.
6. The Company has indicated its willingness to consider special arrangements for voluntary severance in respect of any salaried staff directly affected by the Railink closure, in the very special circumstances that obtained.
7. A situation could not be sustained in which those participating in industrial action were to be paid for time lost. This principle has been upheld by the Labour Court on numerous occasions (details supplied to the Court).
Having taken account of all the issues raised by the parties, the Court finds that the Company, by their action, were in breach of normal procedures.
Given the industrial relations situation in the Company, the Court considers that a better approach should have been taken involving the employees. The Court notes that the Code of Practice has a review clause which is open to management to use if they wish for consideration of the type of situation which gave rise to the dispute.
Notwithstanding the above, the Court does not consider that a payment in relation to the breach of procedures would be appropriate.
Accordingly, the Court does not recommend concession of the Union's claims.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
25th of April, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.