INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
MERCK SHARP & DOHME (IRELAND)
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr McGrath
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Walsh
1. Claim for the upgrading of Control Room Attendants.
2. The Company, which is based in Ballydine, Co. Tipperary, is a modular, multi-product computer-controlled facility which manufactures bulk pharmaceutical products on a batch processing basis. It employs 272 workers and operates a 4-cycle 7-day shift system. Two Control Room Attendants (CRAs) on each shift monitor and interact with the computerised processing system. The 8 CRAs concerned in the dispute are Grade A operators which is the highest operating grade in the plant. Their claim for upgrading was the subject of a previous Labour Court hearing and Recommendation (LCR15039, December, 1995), in which the Court recommended, inter alia, that objective evaluation procedures and criteria to evaluate the jobs concerned should be established.
Subsequently, the parties met and exchanged correspondence concerning the recommendation and in June, 1996 the Company indicated that it intended not to agree to a joint evaluation exercise on the grounds that the process would take too long, it would be expensive, and there would no be guarantee that its findings would be acceptable to the Union.
The Company proposed engaging consultants to carry out an evaluation study on its behalf and wanted the Union to do likewise, following which information would be shared at a conciliation conference with a view to progressing the issue. The Union's position was that the Labour Court recommendation could only be complied with by means of a joint evaluation.
The Company engaged Hay Management Consultants to evaluate the 5 grades in the Control Room, including the grade of CRA. The report concluded that the CRA position was correctly graded and that there was no scope for upgrading. A conciliation conference took place on the 10th of December, 1996, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, at which the Company reiterated its argument that its approach was correct and indicated that, having regard to the Hay Report, there was no possibility of conceding to the Union's claim on upgrading.
It indicated that it would be impossible to address the CRA claim without disturbing clearly-defined relativities leading to knock-on claims from other grades. The Company, however, offered a lump-sum to each of the claimants as a gesture to settle the claim. The Union maintained its position that the most appropriate way of dealing with the matter was by means of a joint evaluation study. Agreement was not reached by the parties at conciliation and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court, on the 9th January, 1997, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 21st January, 1997.
3. 1. Twelve months ago the Union understood that progress had been made when the Labour Court Recommendation was issued, in the light of acceptance by the Company management of the significant levels of change experienced by the CRAs, change which was acknowledged as being greater to that experienced by other groups within the Company.
2. It should have been possible to develop jointly a mechanism which would address the issue in an objective manner and which would ensure that no spurious knock-on claims would be justified.
3. The reasons put forward by the Company for not being prepared to work jointly towards resolving this problem are rejected. In this regard the Union would point to developments which are taking place nationally in such matters.
4. The Union does not accept the validity or suitability of the Company exercise in addressing the issued in dispute and would point to the differences which exist between the Recommendation of the Court, the Union's proposed Terms of Reference, and what actually occurred.
5. Bearing in mind the agreement which existed at the previous Court hearing on the degree of actual change in these positions, and the Company's stated preferred option of the Court specifying an appropriate financial adjustment, the Union's position is that resolution can only be achieved by the Court making such a recommendation.
4. 1. The Company accepted LCR15039 and has tried, in good faith, to move towards a resolution of this issue.
2. The Company must have regard to
- developments on reward systems in the industry
- company policy on reward, and
- the application of that policy.
It cannot act in the industrial relations arena in a way which undermines its strategy for business success. Nor can it set aside the expert advice which said that the job of CRA is correctly graded and that a joint evaluation would be divisive and ultimately unsatisfactory. It was in that context that the Company put forward a proposal at the Labour Relations Commission to 'close off' this claim by way of a 'once off' lump sum.
3. The CRAs have excellent pay and conditions of employment and have benefited from the various productivity payments over the years, even on occasions when their own job was not affected in any way.
4. Since the Labour Court Recommendation the Company has received two further claims of a similar nature from a SIPTU group and a craft group.
The Court has fully considered all of the issues raised by the parties in their oral and written submissions.
The Court considers that, in the interests of developing and improving relations and addressing in a more positive way the perceptions of the employees concerned, there could have been a greater involvement of the employees in the evaluation of the jobs.
The Court, however, does not find that there are any grounds to show that the jobs here concerned are not appropriately graded.
Given all the circumstances the Court recommends that the lump sum offered by the Company should be accepted.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
10th of February, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.