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: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Dispute concerning manning of the test bay area.
2. The Company is engaged in the manufacture of electricity distribution transformers and employs 150 workers. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Asea Brown Boveri one of the largest manufacturers of electrical equipment worldwide. The Company has made an ongoing major investment in new equipment throughout all production areas of the plant. The present dispute relates to the manning level of the KVA test bay where small transformers are tested for quality control purposes. It is currently manned by one electrician and an assistant (helper). Management proposes to redeploy the helper on the basis that the area is now a one-person operation and the electrician can adequately carry out the duties there without the helper. The Union rejected the proposal. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 2nd of October, 1996. Agreement was not possible and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 17th of July, 1997. A Labour Court hearing was held on the 21st of November, 1997.
3. 1. The assistant carries out a considerable amount of work at the test bay. The Union acknowledges that there are some slack periods during which the assistant is willing to be temporarily redeployed to other duties. This has been the practice for some time and the Union has no objection to it continuing.
2. There are Health and Safety issues to be considered if the test bay becomes a one person operation. There are certain risks to one employee working alone. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) which inspected the operation set down a number of essential requirements (not yet fully complied with) if the area is to become a one person operation.
3. The Union is committed to supporting the Company in carrying out its operation as efficiently as possible. The Union is convinced that there is sufficient work in the test bay area to justify the retention of the assistant, with the present arrangement for temporary re-deployment operating as required.
4. 1. Because of a major investment in computers, handling equipment, and new testing equipment there is no need for the helper in this area. The testing of transformers is well within the capacity of one worker. The Company engaged the services of the Irish Productivity Centre (IPC) who confirmed that "there are no physical impediments or technical restrictions to the tasks of testing transformers with one worker in the test bay."
2. The Company has implemented the HSA recommendations and has given its assurance that there will be strict adherence to safety procedures.
3. In recent years the Company has secured important contracts despite strong competition. To win these contracts it was essential to reduce its price per product significantly. These reductions in prices/profit margins underline the necessity for improving efficiency and reducing costs.
4. The Company's proposal will not result in a redundancy situation.
5. The Company is the only one in the Asea Brown Boveri Group to still have a helper for this operation.
6. In May, 1997 the Company reached an agreement with the Union whereby the Union agreed "to co-operate with all efforts and initiatives by the Company aimed at improving efficiency and enhancing competitiveness". The current proposal is such an initiative.
The Court notes that concerns have been expressed by the Union as to the safety implications of lone working in the test bay. While this is not the sole basis for its objection to the Company's proposal it is, in the Court's view, a matter which must be definitively resolved by the competent authority before the Company could proceed further with the change contemplated. In that regard the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), at the request of the Company, have previously proposed a number of measures which it considered necessary to minimise safety hazards in the type of operation proposed. The extent to which those measures have been put in place is now in dispute between the parties.
Against this background the Court recommends that the Company seek formal written confirmation from the HSA that all safety related matters which the Authority raised in relation to this proposal have been fully and satisfactorily addressed.
When such confirmation is received the Union should accept the redeployment of its members out of the test bay area.
This recommendation is made on the understanding that its implementation will not result in redundancies and that the displaced helpers will be redeployed into suitable alternative positions within the Company, without loss of pay or diminution in their conditions of employment.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
4th December, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.