INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
BURMAH CASTROL LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Grading of a post.
2. Burmah Castrol is involved in the distribution of petroleum and lubricant products. It employs 76 workers.
The dispute before the Court concerns the clerical area where the employees are graded at different levels from 1 to 6A. In August, 1997 a Grade 4 employee resigned from the Company. Prior to the worker's departure her job content was evaluated by herself and the Company and they agreed that the appropriate level for the job was Grade 2. The Company now wishes to fill the post accordingly. The Union rejects the Company's position.
Local level discussions failed to resolve the issue and the matter was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference took place on the 18th of January, 1998. As agreement could not be reached the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 16th of February, 1998 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 18th of March, 1998.
3. 1. The job in dispute is classified as a Clerical Assistant in Management Accounts. Management is claiming that it was downgraded and that it does not involve a full week's work. In 1996 the same post (with the last job holder) was deemed to be overworked. The Management Accountant wrote to all staff indicating that because of work pressure the job holder would be unable to carry out certain duties (details supplied). The grade for the job was not brought into question but Management decided, for purely opportunistic reasons, to downgrade the job when it became vacant.
2. The workers are determined to protect the current grades of all jobs. Their representative made numerous attempts in-house and at conciliation to broker a deal that would have represented a compromise but to no avail.
3. The particular post in dispute has a variety of duties with a significant clerical content as distinct from that of Communications Assistant (reception, keyboard operation etc.). Within the industry the lowest two grades were exclusively communications personnel. Because of reduced staff numbers and progress in technology there are very few staff left in such a role. Most employers in the industry now have staff carrying out a variety of functions, including clerical functions and therefore pay Grade 3 or higher. The nature of the specific post in dispute with "posting allocation, filing of cash and journal" with the requirement to cover higher grades for holidays (5 posts and 25 weeks holidays) puts it clearly above basic clerical Grade 3.
4. The Union is seeking that Management honour the grades structure agreed with the Union and that the post in question be filled at Grade 4 level.
4. 1. The company is satisfied that the job description for the post accurately reflects the duties entailed and that the proposed grade two scale more than adequately reflects the rate for the job. The job description was circulated to a number of companies for their assessment and they confirmed Burmah Castrol's approach as being reasonable and fair. The salary grade offered for the position of Clerical Assistant is well in excess of that on offer in the market place in general and is extremely competitive within the oil industry as a whole.
2. The Company acknowledges that during the last number of years staff have been awarded personal grades at the request of the Union to settle previous disputes. This disputed post is a case in point. The Company cannot justify giving these personal grades to new recruits/promotees. The company plans to review the job descriptions of any future vacated posts and where appropriate realign the posts to their appropriate grade as per the 1979 agreement between management and the company (details supplied).
3. It is not the intention of the company to affect the rate of pay or grade level of any existing member of staff. Neither does it intend to replace the existing pay grades with lower pay grades as some of its competitors have done, but it must bring the grading levels into line within its existing pay structure bearing in mind the highly competitive business realities of the oil industry today. The imminence of a single European currency and the transparent markets that will result from its introduction together with the pressure the company is currently experiencing as a result of globalisation means that the Irish company must improve its competitiveness if it is to survive in the long term. The Company will not be able to maintain its competitive position in the oil industry or retain quality employment for its staff without taking this necessary approach to the filling of posts. It has already adopted this approach in the filling of two management positions in 1997.
4. Currently 91% of all posts represented by SIPTU are paid at Grade five or higher. To maintain this situation for the future represents a serious problem for the cost control and competitiveness of the company. The average age of the work force at Burmah Castrol is 48 years of age with an average service profile of 27 years. Management must fill posts which become vacant at appropriate grades for the post, not at the personal grade held by the previous job holder and not at a compromise grade between that of the job holder's personalised grade and the correct grade for the post. Management's failure to do so may jeopardise future employment in the company and may ultimately endanger the future of the company itself. This disputed position is not being viewed by the Company in isolation. It is aware that this situation will arise in the future with retirement or departures. The Court must bear in mind that the staff turnover in Burmah Castrol is extremely low reflecting the excellent overall terms and conditions of employment and as a result this situation has not occurred in the past.
While a job classification list exists, it would appear from the information before the Court, that a number of individuals have been upgraded over the years in order to resolve problems that have arisen.
This the Company argues has given rise to these jobs being too highly graded, and the Management want to review these in certain cases at the change of job holder. This is one such case.
There is no evidence that an agreement exists to review jobs in such a manner, despite the fact that it may be a legitimate aspiration of Management given the background to some gradings.
Taking into account all of the issues involved in this case, the Court recommends that the parties accept that the grading for this post be Grade 3 and that the Company enter into discussions with the Union on its proposal to review job gradings.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
16th April, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.