INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
TARA MEATS (DUBLIN) LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr McGrath
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Interpretation of an agreement regarding overtime.
2. A comprehensive Agreement was concluded between the parties in 1995. One aspect of the Agreement, referring to overtime, is the subject of this dispute, i.e., Clause 6 which states that "Boning and Trimming operations do not attract overtime". The Company claims that the meaning of this provision is that no overtime rates would be paid to workers in the boning and trimming area should they be required to carry out overtime. The Union position is that it was given to understood at the time the Agreement was being negotiated that boners and trimmers would not be required to work overtime and that this would not have become an issue if the number of boning teams was maintained at 10.
Boners and trimmers are now being requested to work overtime. The Company claims that all employees can be required to work a reasonable amount of overtime and that this particular category of worker has worked overtime in the past. The Union's response is that overtime has not been worked in boning and trimming for the past 5 years and that, as that aspect of the Company's operation is very physically demanding, there is no interest in working overtime, and that it will not be worked at the piece rates mentioned in the Agreement.
The dispute was the subject of conciliation under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, at which agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court, on the 18th of March, 1997, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation on the 28th of April, 1997.
3. 1. The 1995 Agreement on piece rate working replaced the basic plus overtime systems. Piece rate is paid for all meat boned and trimmed. A minimum quota of 55 quarters per team was the equivalent of the normal day's work. Teams often do more than this amount. It is common for teams to do up to 60 quarters at a heavy specification or 70 quarters at a light specifications in a day. Teams have reached as high as 82 quarters per day. The is the equivalent production level of a normal day's work, plus overtime.
2. During the 1995 negotiations the Company assured the Union that boners and trimmers would not be expected to work overtime as it would be subsumed by piece rate.
3. In the Contract of Employment it is clearly stated that "Boning and Trimming operations do not attract overtime". This clearly demonstrates the exclusion of these teams from a requirement to work overtime. Boning meat is heavy physical work, demanding a high level of skill and concentration. It is unacceptable to demand that workers should work overtime having already done up to 70 quarters.
4. It is the industry norm that overtime carries a premium rate. To ask the workers to do additional hours at the normal rate is unreasonable.
4. 1. The relevant Clause in the Agreement, i.e., Clause 6, sets out the overtime arrangements that apply. It states specifically that it is a condition of employment that "all those to whom this Agreement relates ..... shall be agreeable to work reasonable overtime when required by management." The boning and trimming staff are covered by the Agreement.
2. It is further stated in Clause 6 that "overtime rates will apply where appropriate", clearly implying that there will be circumstances where overtime rates will not apply to certain overtime working. Under Clause 5(b), Rates of Pay, it is clearly stated that no overtime rates will be paid on the £2 per quarter piece rate.
3. It was at all times clear throughout the negotiations on the Viability Agreement that the boning and trimming operation would not attract overtime payments as such and this was accepted by the employees to be the case. The overtime agreement requires all employees covered by the Agreement to work reasonable overtime and boning and trimming employees are covered by the Agreement.
4. The sentence relied upon by the Union in support of its case arises in the context of the overtime rates appropriate to the category of employment which attracts overtime payment. It is clearly intended to reflect the Agreement that boning and trimming operations do not attract overtime payments, and nothing more.
The Court has fully considered all of the issues raised by the parties in their oral and written submissions.
The Court is of the view that, if the Company is to be viable and the employment secured, the parties will have to take such measures as are necessary to improve the industrial relations climate with a view to ensuring there are no interruptions to production. The parties, if necessary, should seek the assistance of the Advisory Service of the Labour Relations Commission to this end.
The Court recommends that, in the short term, with a view to maximising production, the Company should make use of contract employees. Immediately, the Company should seek to put in place permanent employees to meet the normal daily workload.
The Court finds there is ambiguity in the wording of the Agreement. However, given all of the circumstances, the Court finds that the Agreement does not preclude the employees here concerned being required to work extended periods at the piece rates provided for in the Agreement.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
12th of May, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.