INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
GYPSUM INDUSTRIES PLC
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Dispute concerning the Company's Staff Efficiency Award.
2. A staff efficiency award which was worth 4% of basic salary (about £635) in 1992 was paid by the Company, since 1969, to clerical staff. Payments under the scheme were based on profits of the BPB Plc Group, of which the Company is a subsidiary. The Company sought to end the payment of the award as it had been withdrawn in all other parts of the group and on the basis that it generated no additional flexibility or efficiency. The Union resisted Company attempts to withdraw the award and no payments were made under the scheme up to 1995. The Company is seeking to buy out the award and the Union wants arrears paid in full and the scheme restored on an ongoing basis. The matter was the subject of conciliation conferences under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission at which the Union indicated that it would be prepared to consider off-setting flexibility/efficiency measures in return for the restoration of the scheme. Subsequently, a joint working group was set up to assess the situation and arising from this process, the Union indicated its acceptance of the introduction of a swipe card system and its willingness to work an extra 15 minutes per week.
The Company, on the 8th of August, 1997 offered the clerical staff a £500 lump-sum together with an annual payment of £520. (In 1995, the clerical staff had already been paid a lump sum of £950 each as a down-payment against the final settlement of the dispute). The Company sought that the additional 15 minutes per week would be worked in blocks of one hour every 4 weeks. This was unacceptable to the Union.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Court, on the 11th of August, 1997, in accordance with S26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation on the 25th of August, 1997.
3. 1. Payment of the Staff Efficiency Award was dependent on the performance of the Group as a whole and was on the basis of published rules which stated:
"The award will not count for pension purposes and the scheme does not form any part of any contract of employment, nor does it confer on employees any legal or equitable rights whatsoever".
Due to adverse trading conditions the Group found it necessary to cease payment of the award.
2. The Company has expressed its willingness to agree an alternative arrangement to the Staff Efficiency Award. Clerical staff have already received a lump sum payment of £950 to which the Company is willing to add £500, plus a payment of £520 p.a. in return for productivity measures which effectively amount to working one extra hour per month, complete with agreeing to use the Company time clock system and an impending replacement time and attendance system.
4. 1. The workers concerned considered that there was a strong argument for not conceding any efficiencies to the Company in return for restoration of a payment they had enjoyed for so long. The Company has gradually whittled away the number of employees in the Clerical Section over the years, including the period during which the Staff Efficiency Award has not been paid. There is a compelling argument for the full restoration of a minimum of 4% per annum and that this should be retrospectively applied to August, 1992.
2. The workers will stand by their commitment to accept an increase from 38 and 3/4 hours to 39 hours and the introduction of the swipe cards as a basis for an agreement on the restoration of the full Staff Efficiency Award.
3. The Company requirement that the 1/4 hour per week be worked in 1-hour blocks every 4 weeks is unacceptable to the workers. Additionally, they would expect the full retrospective payment of the £10 per week.
4. The clerical workers are the only group in the Company who have taken a substantial reduction in earnings since 1992.
5. The Company is highly profitable returning net profits of about £7m for each of the last 2 years.
The Court, having considered all the issues involved in this case, recommends that the Union accept the Company proposal but that the Company offer of £520 per annum payment and once off-lump sum of £500 be amended to £520 per annum and £600 lump sum.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
5th of September, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.