INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
HENNIGES ELASTOMERS IRELAND GMBH
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Dispute concerning the Company's rationalisation plans.
2. The Company manufactures rubber components for the automotive industry and employs approximately 400 workers. In August 1996, the Company proposed a major reorganisation/rationalisation plan which involved a reduction in employee numbers, changes in work practices, and alterations to bonus payments. Management claimed that the plan was essential for the Company's continued viability. The Union rejected the Company's proposals. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and five conciliation conferences were held in October, November and December, 1996. Following the final conciliation conference proposals were put forward as a basis for settlement of the issues in dispute. They were rejected following a ballot of the workforce. Specifically the proposals in relation to shift changes and interchangeability/flexibility were rejected. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 15th January, 1997. A Court hearing was held on the 3rd February, 1997.
3. 1. The workers concerned have voiced strong opposition to any change in the existing shift pattern because they would incur losses in shift premiums. However, the Union accepts that this issue will be dealt with at a later stage under the Company/Union agreement.
2. The Company proposals relating to flexibility/interchangeability present the workers with a core difficulty. They have co-operated with the flexibility/interchangeability as provided for under Clauses 4 and 6 of the Company/Union agreement. However, in recent times, the Company sought a substantial extra level of change specifically in relation to the introduction of cell production as interchangeability/flexibility.
3. The Union is anxious to co-operate with the Company but needs must be clearly explained and identified with details provided so that no ambiguity exists with regard to the Company proposals. It is essential that Management recognises that its interpretation of interchangeability/flexibility necessitates consideration for providing information, training and a mechanism for rewarding the workers' contribution.
4. 1. The Company sustained significant losses in 1996 with a substantial drop in its sales (details to the Court). Implementation of the Company's proposals are essential for its continued viability and competitiveness. It is crucial that the proposals are accepted by the workforce.
2. In an effort to accommodate the workers, the Company agreed to defer any changes in shift pattern and the profit sharing scheme.
3. The negotiating committee agreed to recommend acceptance of the remaining elements in the proposals i.e. job reductions, 39 hour week, and flexibility/interchangeability. In December, personnel were trained across all shifts in the required skills to deal with new and changing tasks.
4. The Company was left with no alternative but to implement its proposals.
5. The issues of flexibility/interchangeability were not in dispute during negotiations. Yet a worker's refusal to perform an assigned task led to disciplinary action, an official work stoppage, and loss of a full shift production before an unconditional return to work.
6. Given the seriousness of the situation, with losses mounting, customer credibility at an all time low and the long term future being uncertain, it is essential that the proposals are accepted by the workforce.
It is clear to the Court that there is an acceptance by both parties that there is a need for change if the Company is to be in a position to effectively compete for markets and employment levels are to be secured. The Court, having considered all of the views expressed by the parties recommends as follows:
(1)Flexibility and Interchangeability-that the proposals of the Company for flexibility and interchangeability be implemented.
Success in the transition to flexibility and interchangeability will require the goodwill and co-operation of the employees.
Accordingly it should be emphasised to line management that, in the allocation of duties, there needs to be a realistic approach.
(2)Shift Patterns- that the parties immediately discuss changes required in shift patterns. That in these discussions the parties give consideration to difficulties which may affect employees as a consequence of any changes proposed.
(3)Profit Sharing- that the parties discuss Company proposals for Profit Sharing. The Court notes that there will be no change to the current bonus scheme except by agreement. Further the Company have guaranteed that, in the interim, there shall be no loss of earnings subject to performance levels being maintained. The parties should seek to reach agreement on or before 30 June 1997.
The Court recommends that the parties review developments in July 1997. In the event that the parties have any difficulties or have issues outstanding on which agreement has not been reached the Court is prepared to review progress and consider making a recommendation.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
18th February, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.