INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
DUBLIN PORT COMPANY
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Dispute concerning the interpretation of an agreement.
2. In November, 1996 the Company and the Union finalised an agreement in respect of approximately 60 clerical/administrative workers. The agreement provided for changes in work practices including the reduction of the lunch break to one hour. In return the Company paid wage increases of up to 10%. A dispute subsequently arose over the interpretation of Clause 2:4 of the agreement relating to the one hour lunch break. Previously, by custom and practice workers enjoyed a 1.25 hour lunch break Monday - Friday, (except Thursday which has a quarter hour added for cheque cashing). Under the agreement the lunch break was to be reduced to one hour Monday - Friday, (apart from Thursday which was to hold the additional quarter hour until the introduction of Electronic Transfer). The dispute arose because the Union claims that at all times during negotiations it understood that the reduction in the lunch break would only take place with the introduction of flexitime. Management rejected the claim. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 22nd January, 1997. Agreement was not possible and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 23rd April, 1997. A Court hearing was held on the 21st August, 1997.
3. 1. The Union recognises that the duration of the lunch break provided for in the agreement as being of one hour's duration. However, the reality is that for many years by custom and practice staff have taken a 1.25 hour lunch break. The previous agreement (C.15:3) also stated lunch break duration was 1 hour. Notwithstanding this the lunch break of 1.25 hours continued to be the norm.
2. During discussions, prior to concluding the current agreement, the Union clearly understood that the 1.25 hour's lunch duration would continue while the parties entered meaningful negotiations on the introduction of flexitime.
3. To date discussions have not taken place on this issue. The Company, in the previous agreement, gave the same commitment but other events have been given precedence.
4. The Union is willing to enter into immediate discussions on flexitime. In the meantime the status quo should prevail i.e. the 1.25 hour lunch break to continue while these negotiations take place.
4. 1. The reduction of the lunch break to one hour and the introduction of flexitime were never linked. They are clearly two separate and independent issues. This has been the case at all times since discussions first commenced and documents exchanged between the parties confirm the Company's position (details to the Court).
2. The clause relating to the lunch break is there precisely because the Company wished to change custom and practice in relation to the duration of the break, otherwise it would not have inserted that clause in the agreement.
3. The Union, having negotiated and accepted the agreement in full, is now attempting to re-negotiate the meal break clause. The Company has already increased pay levels in return for implementation of the agreement which clearly stipulates a one hour lunch break.
Having examined the submission and the documentation presented the Court is satisfied that the Company's interpretation of the agreement is correct and accordingly the Court recommends that it be accepted by the Union.
The Court notes that under the terms of agreement between the parties the above recommendation is binding on the parties.
The Court further recommends that the parties expedite discussions and agreement on the introduction of flexitime.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
1st September, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.