INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Dispute concerning a change in work practices.
2. Uniphar Plc was formed after the United Pharmacists Co-operative Society (UPC) acquired Allied Pharmaceutical Distributors (APD) in late 1994. The Company is involved in wholesale distribution of pharmaceutical products. The dispute relates to the Company's proposal to restructure work patterns of some staff in the warehouse. There are 14 full-time staff in the warehouse, 12 of whom work days from 8.30 to 5.00 p.m. The Company seeks to change the working hours of 7 of the workers as follows:-
Monday : 7.00 a.m. - 1.30 p.m. 5.00 p.m. - 7.30 p.m.
Tuesday: 9.00 a.m. - 1.30 p.m. 4.45 p.m. - 7.30 p.m.
Wednesday: 9.00 a.m. - 1.30 p.m. 5.00 p.m. - 7.00 p.m.
Thursday: 9.00 a.m. - 1.30 p.m. 5.00 p.m. - 7.30 p.m.
Friday: 9.00 a.m. - 1.30 p.m. 5.00 p.m. - 7.00 p.m.
The proposals was rejected by the Union. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and conciliation conferences were held in November and December, 1996. Agreement was not possible and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 18th February, 1997. A Court hearing was held in Limerick on the 23rd of April, 1997.
3. 1. The proposals were rejected on the basis that they are impractical and would cause major inconvenience and hardship to the workers.
2. The working hours proposed do not exist in any of the other pharmaceutical wholesalers in the area.
3. The Union has proposed that, if any warehouse workers want to co-operate with the revised working conditions, it should be on a voluntary basis only. Compensation of £250 per year of service should be paid.
4. The Company has a redundancy agreement with the Union. This should be offered as an option to staff who cannot change to the new system.
4. 1. The operation has accumulated substantial financial losses which must be addressed if the Company is to avoid serious rationalisation. The Company's requirement is determined by the markets. Its proposal would ensure that the Company operates as efficiently as possible. Quality of service is essential to remain competitive.
2. The Company has had a marked increase in turnover over the past two years and yet it has been forced to employ the services of a number of part-time staff to pick and assembly orders during the hours 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to ensure that these orders are ready for distribution the following day. A substantial part of the Company's business is now being processed after 5 p.m. and is, therefore, attended to by part-time staff.
3. There is extreme competition within the pharmaceutical industry. Margins are very low. The Company has had to absorb a 17% decrease in price on some of its products. Distribution costs are high. The Company must ensure that its distribution system is equipped and ready to distribute product on time.
4. The Company is prepared to consider the payment of a small inducement payment for permanent workers' agreement to the Company's proposal. The Company, however, is not prepared to engage on discussions on redundancy as this situation does not arise.
5. There will be no loss of earnings associated with the change of hours and there is no adverse impact on the workers' terms of employment with the Company.
The Court, having considered the submissions of the parties, is satisfied that the Company does have problems and there is a need to change to combat these problems. However the Court considers that the present split-shift proposals are not the desirable solution. The Court recommends that the parties meet, as a matter of urgency, and explore alternative proposals to deal with the problem. If the parties agree, the assistance of a suitably qualified person should be sought to help.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
29th April, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.