INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
TEXACO (IRELAND) LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Alleged breach of the Company/Union agreement.
2. The dispute arose following the filling of 7 vacancies in field operations, an area seen by head office staff as a promotional outlet. Of the 7 vacancies, and a subsequent vacancy, only 3 were filled from office staff, the remainder being allocated to external candidates.
On the 14th of April, 1997, the Union wrote to the Company advising of a "high level of anger and frustration at the apparent lack of any appreciation for the exceptional effort put into the success of the Company", by its members. The Union indicated that it had been decided to withdraw from the Total Brand Management System (TBMS) and the Quality Programme. In order to alleviate the sense of frustration amongst staff, the Union suggested that the following measures be considered by the Company:-
(1) Redefining pensionable salary to include productivity bonus and Ceiling Merit Bonus (CMB);
(2) CMB to be improved to 7.5% - 10%;
(3) Share participation scheme;
(4) Better product rebate;
(5) VHI - 100% Plan B or 75% Plan C;
(6) Agreement that all future temporary staff be recruited at the lower grades;
(7) The 4 vacancies in the IT Department be filled internally, without delay.
The Company insisted it appointed the best candidates for the positions. It argued that the withdrawal from the Quality Programme industrial action was in breach of Paragraph 19 of the Company/Union agreement. It added that the suggestions of the Union amounted to a cost-increasing claim.
The dispute was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, at which agreement was not reached. 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. The Court carried out its investigation on the 5th of December, 1997.
3. 1. Employment in the oil industry is good from the perspective of salary and conditions but that is poor consolation if staff are left with the feeling that their interests in their employment are being marginalised and that, despite exceptional efforts on their part, promotional opportunities are being allocated to external candidates. Management handling of the whole situation has been insensitive, ungracious and bordering on the provocative. It was difficult to contain staff anger and to limit their actions to a withdrawal of co-operation from programmes for which some members had volunteered in the full knowledge that they were at liberty to so withdraw at will. Management compounded the resentment over the promotions by attempting to insist that volunteers were now conscripts in situations which other staff have previously opted out of.
2. The suggestions made by the Union to the Company in order that it could address the level of frustration in a tangible way would result in only a very small cost to the Company. The concession of any combination of the suggestions would have helped ease the situation.
3. It was reasonable for staff to withdraw from a process that only some had volunteered for and that did not form part of an agreement or job-specification.
4. The status quo clause of the Agreement placed a serious obligation on management to hold off filling the Head Office senior post, pending agreement. However, management went ahead and filled the post. The same management then seeks the protection of that clause when it suits its cause. Out of deference to the Court, the workers in question have held off on any action pending a Court Recommendation while management has recruited externally for the Head Office post and a number of other positions.
4. 1. The concerted industrial action and refusal to co-operate with ongoing Company programmes is unacceptable and contrary to the provisions of Partnership 2000 which states there should be "full and ongoing co-operation with change and the need for continued adaptation and flexibility to maintain the improved competitiveness".
2. The Company responded promptly to the Union request of February 25, 1997 for implementation of the Partnership 2000 Agreement and it is particularly concerned that within a matter of six weeks the Union was demanding cost-increasing benefits and implementing concerted industrial action.
3. The withdrawal of co-operation from the TBMS is unacceptable and in the longer run damaging to the Company's competitiveness in the market place. It is also contrary to the provisions of both Partnership 2000 and the Company/Union Agreement.
4. The Company has a recognised tradition of competitive remuneration based on external competitiveness and internal equity achieved through benchmarking with competitors and a formal job-evaluation scheme (Hay) agreed with the Union.
5. During the last decade the Company has significantly improved and enhanced employee participation and development programmes with reasonable funding for recreational and social activities. The Company's pay scales are extremely competitive and compare well with the industry in general. In addition, through productivity bonuses, CMB, performance bonuses and necessary overtime, there is considerable scope to improve on earnings (details supplied).
6. The Company has a tradition of appointing the most suitable person to a job and of utilising in-house skills to the greatest extent possible. The current management team of 32 has, with two exceptions, been developed internally. Since a major re-organisation in 1989, 49 Union members, i.e., 74% of the total members have been promoted or re-graded, 14% into management positions.
7. Over a number of years, the Company has introduced a wide range of enhancements to the total remuneration package improving the position of all employees. There have also been a number of initiatives to improve employee involvement, many of which now appear as part of the Partnership 2000 framework programme. The implementation of these programmes followed two years of extensive training in a variety of areas, e.g., customer care, continuous improvement processes, business understanding, which were applied Company-wide.
The Court is of the view that both parties could be considered as being in breach of the Company/Union agreement.
In the circumstances the Court recommends
- that the employees resume co-operation with TBMS and call off the action they have decided to embark on;
that the parties meet and discuss further ways of implementing and adopting the principles set out in Chapter 9 of Programme 2000;
that, in the future, before filling any vacancy that arises, the Union be informed as to the manner in which the Company proposes to fill it and be given an opportunity to have an input to that decision.
Overall, the Court is concerned at the apparent lack of trust between the parties. This should be addressed.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
12th of December, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.