INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
IRISH ISPAT LIMITED
- AND -
TECHNICAL, ENGINEERING AND ELECTRICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Terms for upskilling.
2. Irish Ispat took over the running of Irish Steel in July, 1995. It employs approximately 350 workers at its location in Cobh, County Cork.
In July, 1993 agreement was reached with Irish Steel for the implementation of a Craft Upskilling Programme. This was based on the completion of 9 modules with a payment of 13%. In early 1994 the Government commissioned a total review of the Company on foot of ongoing losses. This led to the implementation of a survival plan. One of the elements of the plan was a three year pay freeze which included all agreements not implemented at that time. The Craft Upskilling Programme fell into this category.
In 1996 the Company/Union agreed to set up a working group to identify current and future training requirements with a view to developing a Craft Upskilling Programme in 1997. In August, 1997 agreement was reached on a 4 Module Programme, training for which would be concluded within a 12 - 18 month period.
The dispute before the Court concerns the financial terms to be applied to the Upskilling Programme. Local discussions failed to resolve the issue and the dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference took place on the 18th of September, 1997. As agreement could not be reached the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 22nd of September, 1997 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place in Tralee on the 23rd of October, 1997.
3. 1. The rates of pay of the workers concerned are out of line with other workers in similar employment both locally and nationally.
2. The workers are concerned at the Union negotiating an upskilling Programme to achieve what they feel is a legitimate entitlement to a proper basic rate of pay without any conditions attached. The Union for its part recognises the dilemma the Company finds itself in addressing the issue of basic pay without a mechanism to facilitate its achievement.
3. The workers concerned are the only group employed by the Company without access to an incremental pay scale on a grading structure which provides pay progression. The Crafts Group has conceded at least 13.5% more than any other group during the three year pay freeze. In the circumstances the Union is seeking a rate of £311.13 at the top of the upskilling rate. This is still well below the basic rate of other maintenance craftpersons.
4. 1. The Company feels that an offer of 13% for a four module programme reflects a reasonable differential for the content therein, and additionally this honours the 1993 commitment from Irish Steel.
2. The proposal on upskilling in addition to the extra increases under discussion in the Wage Round together represent significant development from the existing base.
3. The restructuring of 1994 clearly involved changes in terms and conditions of employment and the Company can never guarantee that it can match other employments (because of the sector within which it operates).
4. While respecting the Court's decision on what it will determine to be an appropriate rate, the Company is satisfied that the content of this Upskilling Programme is directly relevant to the craft skills requirement in the Company. Accordingly it trusts that any recommendation recognises the right of the Company to independently develop skills programmes in particular areas without incurring liability from other groups.
The Court is concerned that it is being asked to set a monetary value for the new Craft Upskilling Programme without the benefit of an examination of the Programme in detail.
In similar cases the Court has used a third party to examine the factors involved and report back to it, before making its recommendation.
However, because of the background to this case, the time constraints involved, and the fact that both parties have requested the Court to issue a Recommendation, the Court issues this Recommendation based solely on its assessment as between the Company offer of 13% and the Union aspiration of 25%.
Having considered the information before it, the Court recommends that the parties agree a figure of 4.5% for each of the four modules.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
12th November, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.