INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
SQUARE D, BALLINASLOE
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Seniority agreement regarding selection for redundancy.
2. The Company is based in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway and employs approximately 420 workers manufacturing circuit breakers. In October, 1996, the Company announced redundancies for 1997 in the order of 100 workers, with possibly more for 1998. In early 1997, the product development department closed with the loss of 10 jobs, and in February 1997 a further 24 workers were made redundant. Twenty four assembly operators were to be made redundant in August 1997, followed by a further 56 in September. The redundancy on offer was 5 weeks' pay per year of service plus statutory entitlements. The offer was oversubscribed.
Following successful efforts by local management in June and July, the Company decided that it would not need any further redundancies apart from the ones scheduled to take place in August. The dispute concerns the seniority of 2 workers who were made redundant. In February 1997, 3 "special case" workers applied to take early redundancy, around March/April. Two of the workers were senior and would have been included in the 24 who were to be made redundant in August. The 3rd worker, worker A, was not due to leave until September. Worker B was a machine setter and was made redundant in October, 1997.
The Union's argument is that the redundancies were to be purely on a seniority basis as per the Company/Union agreement, and that neither worker A nor worker B had the necessary seniority. Worker A was 41st on the seniority list which meant that there were 17 workers more senior to her who wished to avail of redundancy. Worker B had 23 people more senior to him. The Company argues that, in the case of Worker A, it could
not have foreseen that the situation would improve in June/July and that it was a genuine mistake made in good faith. In the case of worker B, as a machine setter he was in a different situation to general operatives and was entitled to redundancy. The Union is seeking either of the following, preferably option (a):
(a) a renewed offer of access to the original redundancy package to all those affected
(b) a payment of significant compensation to each individual affected by the loss of their right to exercise their seniority in respect of accessing the redundancy package.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference took place on the 17th of September, 1997. As the parties did not reach agreement the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 7th of October, 1997, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 24th of September, 1997.
3. 1. In a letter to the Union on the 21st of March, 1997, regarding the redundancy package, the Company stated that:
"those with the largest service will in all instances be given the first opportunity to avail of it".
There is only one seniority list. Worker A did not have the necessary seniority. There were 17 people more senior to her who wished to leave and avail of the redundancy package. A number of people more senior to worker A had pleaded special circumstances but were told by the Company to hold off.
2. As regards worker B, the Company cannot claim that a genuine mistake was made. Worker B did not leave until October, 2 months after the redundancies should have finished. The Company has ignored its own letter of the 21st of March. There is no mention of any 'category' of workers who were to receive special treatment.
4. 1. There was no way that the Company could have known in March, 1997, that the situation would change so dramatically in June/July, and that only 24 redundancies would be needed. If a mistake was made it was a genuine one. Worker A was due to be made redundant in September. The Union was aware of her application to leave early and the Company was willing to oblige her.
2. The case of worker B was different. He was a different grade to the other operatives and on a different pay scale. Part of the Company's restructuring involved a reduction of 1 machine setter. Worker B was the longest serving machine setter. Section 17(b) of the Company/Union agreement states that:
"the length of service, first-in-last-out principle would apply in a category basis".
This was the basis on which worker B left.
It is clear that both parties agreed in good faith that individuals with particular problems could go in advance of the final position being clarified. As a result, one person who would not have qualified to go was given terms, although at the time of her going she fitted the agreed criteria.
While the consequence of this is that another individual who would have been facilitated was not, the Court does not recommend that a redundancy be artificially created to allow someone to leave the Company, or that compensation be paid to others more senior.
On the other issue, it is the Court's view that the machine setter did not fit the requirement for redundancy terms.
However, as he did not take the place of someone else, the Court does not recommend that a redundancy be created and compensation paid.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
2nd December, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.