INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
WYETH NUTRITIONALS IRELAND
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr Brennan
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Dispute concerning the alleged unfair transfer of a worker.
2. The Company is engaged in the production of infant nutritionals and employs 444 workers. The claim concerns a worker who is employed as a cleaner in the Drier 4 area of the Process Drying Department. It is split into two departments - Process 1 and Process 2. Both departments have supervisors in charge of 34 workers and 42 workers respectively. Following an operational reorganisation of the Process 2 area, the Company proposed to operate Drier 3 and Drier 4 with two less Drier area cleaners. The Company transferred the worker concerned and another worker from Drier 4 to the utility pool. The Union claimed that the worker concerned was unfairly selected for transfer. Management rejected the claim on the grounds that it selected the two most junior workers (the worker concerned and another employee). On the 13th January, 1997, the Union referred the dispute to the Labour Court under Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969 and agreed to be bound by the Court's recommendation. A Court hearing was held in Limerick on the 12th February, 1997.
3. 1. The worker has suffered a substantial reduction in his earnings as a result of the transfer. He has always been employed in the Drier 4 area. When he was transferred from his normal job in Drier 4 to the Utility Pool a worker in Drier 3 was transferred to the claimant's post. The worker concerned was unfairly selected for transfer contrary to custom and practice.
2. The Union understood that the two most junior workers in Drier 3 and Drier 4 would be moved first. These areas operated separately and workers did not cross over between Drier 3 and Drier 4 in the normal course of their duties. Each area had separate supervisors. If a worker wanted to transfer from Drier 3 to Drier 4 he was required to pass an interview before transfer.
3. The transfer of a worker from Drier 3 to replace the worker concerned on Drier 4 was contrary to established practice. There was no opportunity for proper consultation.
4. The Union understood that, because of the separate way in which these areas have developed, with each having its own seniority, when transfer takes place it is localised to the job affected. In this case the transfer of one worker from each area (Drier 4 and Drier 3) would have been the correct approach.
4. 1. Because of the operational changes implemented, staffing levels had to be reduced. As there were no volunteers for redundancy, the Company had to displace the two most junior workers (the claimant and another employee) from the Drier 4 area. The Company does not accept the Union's contention that a worker from each area i.e. Drier 3 and Drier 4 be moved. The most junior cleaner in Drier 3 is senior to the claimant - and if replaced would instigate a complaint under the Grievance Procedure that he was entitled to have his seniority within Process 2 observed.
2. There are no flexibility restrictions within Process 2. The Company is entitled to transfer drier/area cleaners between Driers 3 and 4 and regularly, on a short term basis, cleaners and others are moved as operational needs dictate (details to the Court).
3. In displacing the two most junior workers from their posts as drier/area cleaners in Process 2, the Company acted in accordance with the requirements relating to seniority.
The Court has given careful consideration to the Union claim on behalf of one worker. Whilst understanding the worker's position the Court nevertheless upholds the Company's position and so recommends.
The Court further urges the Company to return the worker to his former or similar position when the first vacancy occurs.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
3rd March, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.