INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
GILLESPIE AND COMPANY 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 Rorke
1. 1. Claim by Union that the computer system has not performed as expected and the implication of same in respect of staffing levels.
2. Redundancy package.
3. Loss of canteen services.
4. Interpretation of the flexibility agreement.
5. Interpretation of Industrial Relations Officer's (IRO's) proposals.
2. The parties attended a conciliation conference at the Labour Relations Commission on the 12th November, 1996, at which agreement could not be reached. The issue of staffing levels in respect of on-going change was referred to the Labour Court on the 6th January, 1997, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Labour Court convened a hearing on the 3rd February, 1997, but there was a difference of opinion regarding the issues in dispute. The hearing was adjourned to allow the parties to return to the Labour Relations Commission to clarify the issues involved. A further conciliation conference was held on the 26th March, 1997, following which the five issues above were referred to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 23rd May, 1997, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. The new computer system was introduced to speed efficiency but instead it has created additional work and problems. The employees have co-operated fully with changes in work practices but the Company has repeatedly sought to transfer work in order to terminate the employment of non-union staff. The Company should document clearly the amount of work it is seeking to transfer and should agree the appropriate staffing level to undertake same.
2. The Company was prepared to pay one employee a lump sum of £800 in addition to a disability pension under the Company's income continuance plan. As her application was rejected by the underwriters, and she is not fit to return to work, she should be given a redundancy package such as that offered by the Company at a local meeting on the 27th February, 1997, of 3 weeks' pay per year of service plus statutory and pension entitlements. The Company has since denied the offer. If she is offered an acceptable package her colleagues will continue to carry out her duties.
3. The Company dispensed with the services of the tea lady and installed a coffee machine without consultation. The proposed temporary canteen is only one third of the size of the original facility and is inadequate for all staff to use together. The staff should be adequately compensated for the loss of their staffed canteen facility which has been part of their conditions of employment for many years.
4. Relations within the Company are at an all time low as the Company has continually forced change on the employees under threat of dismissals. The employees have been tolerant and co-operative and wish to establish a normal industrial relations environment without fear of the imposition of extra work and/or threats of dismissal.
4. 1. The Company is satisfied that existing staffing levels are more than sufficient for its current level of activity. Initial difficulties with the computer system have been resolved and the appointment of a new stock controller has significantly reduced the workload in the office. As Quinnsworth currently accounts for 25% of the Company's turnover, the purchase by Tesco will have serious and significant implications for employment in the Company.
2. The Company did not make an offer of redundancy to the employee who is currently absent on sick leave. The only offer made was in regard to her claim for income continuance. If she had been successful, the Company would have paid her a lump sum of £800. As her claim was rejected, and she did not appeal it, her job is still open to her should she choose to return to work.
3. Following a Rights Commissioner's Recommendation, and as a result of a significant reduction in the tea lady's workload, the Company and the Food Branch of SIPTU agreed a redundancy package for her. The employees have the option of either using the refurbished canteen facilities or of availing of beverages from the drinks dispenser free of charge. Each employee receives a monthly canteen allowance of £52. The present facilities are temporary as the Company has applied for planning permission for a new premises in Swords where there will be a designated canteen.
4. The Company has operated a flexibility scheme for the past 18 years for which employees receive an index-linked payment of £39.92 per person per week. There have been a substantial number of changes in work practices over the years without difficulty and the Company is entitled to continued flexible work arrangements.
5. In November, 1995, staff accepted the IRO's proposal of ex-gratia payments in return for co-operation with the integration of Valley Gold products and the new computer system. In 1996 one employee breached the agreement by initially refusing to carry out typing duties related to Valley Gold and then by carrying them out under protest. She should agree to carry out the work assigned as part of her normal duties.
The Court, having considered the written and oral submissions, makes the following Recommendation on the issues before it:-
(1) While the computer system would appear to be now working more satisfactorily, the parties should consider the use of an organisation and method study, as discussed at the hearing, to ascertain whether manning levels are appropriate.
(2) In the case of the redundancy claim by one employee, the Court believes that the employee should appeal the decision on her eligibility for income continuance.
Pending that decision, the question of a redundancy should be put to one side.
If, however, her appeal is successful then the Company should employ a replacement.
(3) Given that there are Company proposals to move to new premises, resulting in new canteen arrangements, this issue should be reviewed at that stage.
The Court is concerned that there appears to be a breakdown in communication between the parties and would urge the parties to take steps to correct the situation.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
16th June, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.