INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
DOUWE EGBERTS (IRELAND) LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION)
Chairman: Mr McGrath
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Appeal against Rights Commissioner's recommendation No. CW 28/96.
2. The Company is involved in the manufacture of tobacco products for sale in the international market.
The worker is a production operative and has been employed by the Company since 1971. On 20th December, 1995, it was reported to management that the worker had taken a number of lighters. As a result of the Company promoting its products, lighters and similar items are often on the shop floor.
The worker was approached by his foreman and admitted that he had 2 lighters in his locker. He returned these to the foreman. Shortly before the Christmas break, the worker claims that management accused him of the theft of the lighters. He was told to be at a meeting with management on 3rd January, 1996.
Meetings took place on 3rd and 4th January, attended by management and Union officials. The meetings were inconclusive. A third meeting took place on 12th January at which the worker was informed that he was to be suspended without pay for 2 weeks, commencing on 15th January.
The dispute was referred to a Rights Commissioner and a hearing took place on 8th July, 1996. The following is the Rights Commissioner's recommendation:
"I recommend that the Union and the worker accept the Company decision in this instance, and that the Company lets the final written warning become void from 31st December, 1997.
The Union appealed the recommendation to the Labour Court on 19th August, 1996, in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on 12th November, 1996, in Mullingar.
3. 1. The worker did not steal the lighters, he was simply curious about them. All of the workers examine new items which come to the shop floor. The worker was carrying heavy equipment at the time of the incident and brought the lighters back to his locker to examine them later.
2. At no time did the worker admit to stealing the lighters. He had no reason to take them as they are of very little value. Workers are often given gifts of similar lighters by the Company. A number of lighters (176) had been reported missing. The worker believes that management decided to pick him as a "scapegoat" in this instance.
3. The punishment of 2 weeks' suspension without pay is totally out of proportion. If there was a breach of discipline, a verbal warning would have been sufficient. The worker has suffered enough. He has been 25 years with the Company and has an excellent record. He has lost 2 weeks' wages and an annual bonus of £1,250.
4. 1. The Company views any missing items or products very seriously. It is well known to the workers that stealing anything, albeit of a minor nature, would lead to serious consequences. The worker could have been dismissed rather than receiving a 2 weeks' suspension.
2. The lighters that the worker took were not unusual. It was not the first time that he had seen such items, and he had no need to take them to his locker to examine them. Both lighters were identical. The Rights Commissioner in his recommendation found in favour of the Company's decision.
The Court finds that all staff are made fully aware of the seriousness of theft of articles from the Company.
In this case, the Court finds that the items concerned were easily accessible to members of staff other than those delegated to deal with the items as part of their work.
Notwithstanding this, the Court finds that there is no reason why staff should have items in their possession which are not appropriate to their work.
The claimant had the items in his possession without permission. Given his long service and his record, the Court is not satisfied that there was any intention on the part of the claimant to keep the items. Given all the circumstances, the Court does not consider it was unreasonable that the Company take some disciplinary action. The Court, however, considers that a week's suspension would have been more appropriate and decides that the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation be amended accordingly.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
23rd December, 1996______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.