INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
SNICKERS PRODUCTION LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr McGrath
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Claim for introduction of 1) Pension Scheme, 2) Sick Pay Scheme.
2. The Company is based in Tullamore, Co. Offaly and is involved in the design, production and selling of clothing. The plant has been in operation since 1981 and currently employs 160 workers.
The claim by the Union, which is for the introduction of a Sick Pay Scheme and a Pension Scheme under Clause 4 of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work (PCW), was first discussed at a meeting on 29th January, 1996. The Company replied by letter of 12th February, 1996, stating that it was unable to meet the Union's demands. The issue was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference took place on 2nd May, 1996, but no agreement was reached. The dispute was then referred to the Labour Court on 12th June, 1996, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on 12th November, 1996 in Mullingar.
3. 1. The Company is financially successful. It had a turnover of £4.8 million each year in respect of 1993 and 1994, and made a profit of £208,000 in 1994.
2. The provision of a Sick Pay Scheme is necessary to allow workers (on certified absence) to maintain some level of earnings. The workers concerned are at a significant financial disadvantage compared to other workers in the industry. Clause 4 of the PCW cites the ability of the enterprise, not the industry, to absorb any cost. There is a Sick Pay Scheme for staff personnel in the Company, which further discriminates against the workers.
3. At the conciliation conference, the Company cited its reliance on a long awaited Joint Labour Committee (JLC ) working party report in regards to the Pension Scheme. However, very little progress has been made in this area and the workers are still being discriminated against. Given the Company's sound financial position, the Company should not rely solely on the JLC's criteria for the industry.
4. 1. The clothing industry has been experiencing severe competitive pressure for some time. The number of closures in recent times is indicative of this. The main cause of this is the ability of companies in Ireland and the UK to source products more cheaply in the Far East and Eastern Europe. Rising labour costs and the high rate of employers' PRSI also contribute.
2. The level of absenteeism in the Company is very high - 8.46% to date in 1996 and 9.4% in 1995. Average absenteeism is 4.5%. It is "spread across the board" rather than a few workers having long term sick leave. Absences are covered by overtime, which has added £37,000 to the wage bill up to November, 1996. If a Sick Pay Scheme was introduced, the rate of absenteeism could rise further. It is very rare for companies in the clothing industry to provide Sick Pay Schemes for manual workers.
3. In 1995, the Women's Clothing and Millinery JLC established a working party on pensions, the purpose of which is to look at the whole area of pensions in the clothing industry. It would not be appropriate for the Company to address the issue until the working party has issued its findings. Furthermore, introducing a Pensions Scheme would put the Company at a competitive disadvantage in relation to other companies covered by the JLC.
The Court has fully considered all of the issues raised by the parties and expresses some sympathy with the view that arrangements should exist for workers in times of ill health and in retirement.
The Court, however, has taken cognisance of the circumstances in the industry and, in the interests of ensuring the continued viability of the Company and the security of employment, recommends that the issue of Sick Pay and Pensions should more appropriately be addressed at the Joint Labour Committee for the industry.
The Court, noting the level of absenteeism being experienced by the Company, recommends that the parties seek to put in place acceptable measures which will address this problem.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
23rd December, 1996______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.