INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
BALLET INTERNATIONAL 2000 LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Dispute concerning the introduction of a Sick Pay Scheme.
2. The Company manufactures high quality lingerie at its plant in Dublin. It is part of the Premoda Group which also has plants in the UK and Portugal. The Company employs 178 workers of which approximately 160 are production workers. Some employees in the clerical/administration and management grades have a sick pay scheme which provides for two weeks' paid sick leave per annum. Production workers do not have a sick pay scheme. In October, 1996, the Union submitted a claim for the introduction of a basic sick pay scheme for these workers. Management rejected the claim. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 26th of August, 1997 Agreement was not possible. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 7th of October, 1997. A Court hearing was held on the 25th of November, 1997.
3. 1. The workers concerned are low paid and work extremely hard to achieve quality and efficiency standards. They make a significant contribution to the success of the Company.
2. As production workers they readily accept the contribution of staff in various management grades, administration staff and design teams. They seek the opportunity to share in the same sick pay benefit as those workers.
3. Although there are employment opportunities in the clothing and textile industries, a number of companies have expressed concern at the difficulties in filling vacancies, because of the poor conditions existing. Many workers leave the industry to take up what they consider to be better employment in other areas. This causes a direct cost to companies in the area of loss of skills and the cost spent in training operatives to required standard, only to see them leave.
4. An opportunity exists for the Company to complement its own workforce for their continuing loyalty to it by accepting the production workers request for equal treatment in the workplace by including them in the sick pay scheme.
5. The introduction of the sick pay scheme would not be a major cost to the Company. The Union is prepared to assist the Company in every way with measures to combat levels of absenteeism
4. 1. The current levels of absenteeism (approx. 19%), is four times the national average and the Company could not, having regard to that level, introduce a sick pay scheme in respect of the production operatives. An analysis of the figures in 1996/1997 show that the level of absenteeism applies across the board. Payment of sick pay does not appear to have any positive impact on levels of absenteeism. At present the absenteeism is compensated for by overtime and outsourcing. The cost for 1996 in overtime premium was £16,310 and outsourcing costs £64,735. These figures represent only part of the actual current cost of absenteeism. They do not take into account the intangible but real costs of disruption of production schedules.
2. The Company tried various schemes, without much success, in an effort to combat absenteeism (details supplied to the Court).
3. The Company is relatively new and is endeavouring to attract investment to try and increase brand sales and growth. In addition a substantial capital investment is needed to increase efficiency at the Dublin plant.
4. The Company faces severe competition both in the domestic and global markets and none of its direct competitors operate sick pay schemes as sought by the Union. The introduction of such a scheme makes the Company less competitive.
5. The Company estimates that the cost of conceding the Union claim would be approximately £38,362. The current economic and competitive position of the Company is such that the Company does not have the ability to absorb the cost of this claim.
6. The prevailing high levels of absenteeism, and the negative impact on absenteeism levels that results when a scheme is in place is a major concern to the Company.
The Court having considered the issues raised by the parties in their oral and written submissions has sympathy with the argument that a sick pay scheme should exist for workers to cover for periods of sickness. However, in the circumstances of this case the level of absenteeism is unacceptably high and significantly above industry norms.
The Court recommends that the parties jointly address the problem of absenteeism with immediate effect. Thereafter the parties should negotiate and put in place, within a period of not more than 12 months, arrangements for a scheme which provides safeguards for avoiding abuse and relates to the needs of workers when on sick leave.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
5th December, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.