INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
MEADOW MEATS LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Walsh
1. Plant rationalisation.
2. The dispute concerns a rationalisation plan at Meadow Meats Limited, Rathdowney, Co. Laois. The Company operates a beef slaughtering and boning facility. It employs 183 workers, of whom approximately 155 are involved in the dispute.
The ownership history of the Company is as follows:-
1977 - 1991 Guinness Group
1991 - 1995 Kerry Group
January 1996 onwards Dawn Meats Group
The Dawn Meats Group has 5 Irish plants, including the one in Rathdowney. The Company's proposals include incentive payments (full details supplied to the Court), a change to the rate of pay and a change in work breaks. The Company has also tabled a new Company/Union works agreement . The Company proposes to make a once-off compensation payment to workers who will be financially worse off as a result of the proposed changes. A formula of 30 weeks' buy-out has been tabled.
At present, the rates of pay are as follows:-
Skilled £188.85 per week
Semi-skilled £181.26 per week
General operatives £174.44 per week
The Company proposes introducing a new general rate of £176.18. All current employees will be "red-circled" on their existing rates of pay.
At present there are 3 "smoke" breaks of 5 minutes, one morning tea-break of 15 minutes and a lunch break of 1 hour. The Company intends operating with one morning break of 12-15 minutes and one lunch break of 30 minutes. The Company proposes to buy-out the "smoke" breaks.
The Company's proposals were first tabled in January, 1996. A total of 14 meetings at local level and 2 conciliation conferences on 10th September, 1996 and 2nd October, 1996, took place but agreement could not be reached between the parties. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 31st October, 1996, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on 28th January, 1997, in Portlaoise.
3. 1. The Company unilaterally terminated the Company/Union Agreement in January, 1996 and tabled proposals to replace it. These proposals included considerably inferior terms and conditions of employment e.g., a single unskilled basic rate instead of a graded pay structure, and the abolition of the bonus scheme in favour of a piece-rate system. At the second conciliation conference, the Company insisted on total agreement on all issues including the proposed new works agreement. There have been no negotiations on the proposed works agreement.
2. The workers are not well paid. They do not enjoy benefits such as pension or sick pay, yet they are expected to take a cut in wages. There has been no valid reason advanced for the proposed changes by the Company.
4. 1. The Company is involved in a highly competitive industry. If it is to remain competitive and receive investment it will have to become more efficient. It is hoped that the Company's proposals will achieve this.
2. The Company operates incentive payments in all its operations. The proposed payments for the Rathdowney plant are in line with all other plants in the Dawn Meats Group. The loss of earnings which may result for the workers concerned will be small and will be offset by a once-off compensation payment.
3. Rates of pay within the group are competitive when compared to the rest of the industry. Current workers will be "red-circled" on their existing rates of pay. The current work-breaks involve 6 "starts" and 6 "stops" and are proving unworkable. The Company wishes to provide a total no-smoking zone.
The Court, having considered the written and oral submissions made by the parties, is of the view that there is scope for further negotiations between the parties.
It is also of the view that these should be meaningful and have a specific time frame.
The Court, therefore, recommends that the parties enter into immediate negotiations on all the issues, including the Company/Union agreement. These negotiations to be completed by the 8th March, 1997, at which stage any areas of disagreement to be referred back to the Court for recommendation.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
12th February, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.