INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
IRISH COUNTRY MEATS 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 Walsh
1. Dispute concerning loss of earnings.
2. The Union is seeking compensation for loss of earnings in respect of approximately 109 workers, who are employed on the killing line, packing line and boning area. They were laid off during June/July 1996 when renovations were being carried out at the Company's plant in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo. Management rejected the claim. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 24th October 1996. Agreement was not possible and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 18th November, 1996. A Court hearing was held in Castlebar on the 9th April, 1997.
3. 1. The renovations passed the designated deadline and were extended for the majority of workers to 17th July, 1996 resulting in a 4-week extension. During this time regular enquiries were made without success by workers to establish a return to work date.
2. The Company should have arranged that the renovations be carried out in a fashion that would have minimised loss of earnings.
3. At local discussions the Union sought unsuccessfully to convince Management that compensation should be made for losses incurred, and that this compensation should be influenced by the calculation of the differential between Social Welfare payments received and average net payments to workers.
4. While the Company stated that alternative work would have been found for employees who looked for it no advertisements or information was given to workers relating to this option.
5. The lay-off was not related to the B.S.E. crisis, in fact there was an increase in throughput of cattle by 11% in 1996. The Company's plant at Ballaghaderreen increased production during the period of lay-off in 1996.
6. Management treated the workers in an unfair manner in not providing alternative work at Ballyhaunis or Ballaghaderreen where increased productivity occurred. The Union seeks compensation for loss of earnings outside the two-week period. The compensation would be influenced by multiples of workers' personal loss between net pay and Social Welfare benefit.
4. 1. The original plan had been to rebuild and renovate the boning hall over the summer months including holidays. Because it lost major markets, and with the advent of the B.S.E. crisis, the opportunity arose to renovate in June, 1996.
2. The extra EU intervention aid granted to Ireland in 1996 to help clear back log of cattle was only applicable to approved plants with appropriate Department of Agriculture licences to kill and de-bone intervention beef. The Ballyhaunis plant did not have the licence at the time.
3. The Union's claim for the difference in social welfare and net pay over a number of weeks amounting to £114 - £150 per head, because the entire beef section was out, would cover approximately 200 workers.
4. There were options available to workers either to take annual leave or avail of lay-off.
5. It was not possible to share existing business with Ballaghaderreen because Ballyhaunis was an inferior plant and, at the time, had no licence for intervention beef. It would not operate the system unless it carried the licence to do so.
6. The Company is experiencing extremely difficult trading conditions and cannot afford to incur any extra costs.
The Court, having considered the written and oral presentations, does not recommend payment of compensation in this case.
However, the Court is satisfied that the communications was badly handled by management and recommends that consultation on an ongoing basis take place between the parties in a similar situation.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
20th May, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.