INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY THE 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 the 39 hour week agreement.
2. The Company manufactures rubber elastic products, primarily for European Markets, and employs approximately 150 workers. The dispute relates to the manner in which the 1989 agreement on the introduction of the 39 hour week was applied in the Company. The agreement allowed for the introduction of an additional 6 days leave to be taken each year as lieu days. However, in its implementation the hourly divisor never changed from 1/40. The Union claims that the divisor should move to 1/39 retrospective to 1990. Management rejected the claim. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 11th June, 1996. Agreement was not possible and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 21st January, 1997. A Court hearing was held in Limerick on the 23rd April, 1997.
3. 1. During negotiations on the 39 hour week in 1989, the Company insisted that the standard week of 40 hours would continue to be worked. Consequently it was agreed that the 6 days were additional to annual leave and could be taken as time off in lieu.
2. At no stage in negotiations did the Company say that the divisor would remain at 1/40. The workers understood that the divisor changed as part of the agreement. Only in 1996 were workers made aware that the divisor had not changed.
3. The claim for retrospection was modified, in local negotiations, to 3 years with no change in the entitlement to 6 lieu days. The Company's proposals to the Union dated 17th December 1996 were rejected because they represented a worsening of the 1989 agreement in relation to the 6 lieu days and the rejection of the Union's compromise on
4. The Company stated that no other group (other than SIPTU) raised the issue of the divisor since the commencement of the agreement. The Union is aware the Company held private negotiations on the divisor issue with the craft union in the plant.
5. The Company wishes to avoid changing the divisor and, in addition, wants the freedom to apply a criteria of accrued time with a claw-back element. The 6 days provided for under the agreement must be available to the workforce for accepting to continue to work a standard 40 hour week. For overtime working the divisor should reflect the 39 hour week and change to 1/39th.
4. 1. The Company has fully honoured the terms of the 1989 agreement. This agreement makes no reference to any changes being made to the hourly rate. The Company continued to pay a divisor of 1/40th for seven years in accordance with the agreement.
2. The current practice whereby workers receive 6 days leave, without the requirement to accrue, represents a major concession to workers.
3. The Company is willing to renegotiate the existing agreement in a genuine fashion. At negotiations in September 1996, the Company understood that the parties were in agreement on the two principles of accrual and the divisor. The Company proposals by letter dated 17th December, 1996 (details to the Court) included some retrospection in terms of the divisor, a mechanism for taking time off in lieu and an application date of 1st February, 1995. The Company rejects the Union's proposal that "while it wants retrospection, the 6 days should not require accrual".
4. The Company proposed an element of retrospection for the entire agreement on the basis of Union acceptance of both accrual as well as the divisor. The Union cannot 'cherrypick' from both the agreement and its proposed alternative. It must be one or the other in its entirety.
The Court has given careful consideration to the submissions made by both parties and has taken into account the background to the dispute. It is clear to the Court that unfortunate misunderstandings are the basis for the dispute.
In the circumstances the Court considers that the proposals contained in the Company document dated 17th December, 1996 are a reasonable way of dealing with the claim and conform with general practice. The Court accordingly recommends that they be accepted subject to the date mentioned in the last paragraph being altered to 1 month after date of this recommendation.
It is open to the Union should they so wish to retain the agreement of 1989 and the divisor of 1/40th.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
30th April, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.