INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
PEERLESS RUGS LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Walsh
1. Appeal against Rights Commissioner's Recommendation No. CW126/96.
2. The Company manufactures bathroom rugs for both the home and export market. It employs approximately 100 people at its plant in Athy, Co. Kildare. The dispute before the Court concerns the method of selection for lay-offs between April, 1993 and January, 1994.
Prior to April, 1993 the selection procedure for lay-offs was on a last-in-first-out basis. In early 1993 a dispute arose concerning the method of selection for lay-off. The dispute was settled at conciliation on the 27th April, 1993 through an agreement which became known as the "Morrin" agreement.
The "Morrin" agreement provided for lay-offs based on a last-in-first-out basis, Company wide, subject to:
(a) sufficient skills being maintained in each department to ensure the viability of each department;
(b) each employee transferring to another department on a seniority basis must be capable of doing the job efficiently in that department without training.
The Union claims that the "Morrin" agreement did not require employees to have to "claim" their jobs based on seniority in the event of lay-off and as a result involve them in claiming their right to employment maintenance over their colleagues.
The Company claims that following acceptance of the "Morrin" agreement it was agreed between the Plant Manager and the Union that the Company would not select those with the necessary skills to transfer to other departments in the event of lay-offs. It claimed that it would operate the "Morrin" agreement on the basis that any employee who considered that he/she was being unfairly selected for lay-off, on the criteria pertaining to the period before the Agreement could make his/her case to the Company as a matter of urgency. The Company claims that the Union requested that the agreement be operated in this manner and it complied with this request.
The Union rejects the Company's interpretation of the verbal agreement made between the plant manager and union officials and argued that its members could not be expected to claim other workers' jobs. This was a management function.
The Union referred the dispute to a Rights Commissioner. The Rights Commissioner investigated the dispute on the 3rd July and 15th August, 1996 and recommended as follows:-
"I recommend that the Company offers and the Union and workers accept the sum of £2,500 to be paid to "social fund" to be administered jointly by the Company and worker representatives".
The Union appealed the Recommendation to the Labour Court on the 17th October, 1996. The Court heard the appeal on the 4th March, 1997 under Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969.
3. 1. As a procedure has now been put in place to regulate any future lay-offs there will be no knock-on effects as a result of this claim.
2. It is management's right to manage. It is also their duty to see that any lay-off is based on seniority and that employees should not have to claim the jobs of their colleagues.
3. The "Morrin" agreement did not require employees to have to "claim" their own jobs based on seniority in the event of lay-off.
4. The financial position of the Company should not have been considered by the Rights Commissioner in a case involving the infringement of individual rights.
4. 1. The "Morrin" agreement obliged workers in any section to claim their right to employment maintenance over colleagues.
2. The Union verbally agreed that the "Morrin" proposals be operated in this manner and the Company complied with this.
3. The Company is adamant that its interpretation of the verbal agreement between Management and the Union is correct.
4. The Company has always dealt with employees' grievances in as reasonable a manner as possible.
5. The Company did not gain financially from its agreement with the Union. It employed the same number of workers, at the same cost, regardless of who was selected for lay-off.
It is clear that both sides believe they had an agreement on how the Morrin recommendations would be implemented.
However, there is disagreement between the parties as to how this implementation was to actually work.
Given the above the Court recommends that the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation be amended as follows:
The £2,500 to be paid by the Company to be increased to £5,000 and to be given to the Union for distribution as it sees equitable.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
20th March, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.