INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Rationalisation of dockers.
2. The dispute concerns 24 permanent dockers who are involved in the Company's shore-based operation for the car ferry in and out of Dublin Port. The dockers are required twice a day when the ferry is in port. Currently their duties include tug drawing, lashing/unlashing and baggage handling. They work in 2 X 12 gangs (plus casual dockers when needed) doing a roster of 4 days on, 3 days off - 3 days on, 4 days off. Although the dockers are paid to work a 39 hour week, in practice they work 19/20 hours per week. Any work done beyond 19 hours is paid at a premium rate. There are three rates of pay for the dockers - £400, £320 and £220 per week.
In December, 1997, the Company proposed a rationalisation programme aimed at addressing two major concerns:-
(1) The lack of best practice and consequential implications on customer service and,
(2) A significant uncompetitive cost base resulting from (1) above.
The rationalisation programme included the following:-
(a) The number of permanent dockers would reduce from 2 X 12 men to 2 X 6 (plus temporary workers).
(b) The rate of pay would remain the same (£400 per week). Premium payments would only apply after 39 hours actual work was completed.
(c) Hours of work over 7 days would be 6.30 a.m. - 11.30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. - 11.00 p.m. The day rosters would remain the same. There would be additional duties (details supplied to the Court).
(d) Lashing/unlashing would be done by the sailors on board the ship. The dockers would only be involved if required by the Company.
At a meeting on the 13th of January, 1998 the Company outlined delays which, it claimed, were caused by the unlashing of vehicles by the dockers which could only commence when the ship docked. The Union branch secretary and an industrial engineer travelled on board the ship to examine the alleged delay.
As the parties could not reach agreement on the Company's proposals, the dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference took place on the 10th of February, 1998. At the conciliation conference, the Company further suggested that any docker who wished to remain with the Company could do so. Natural wastage and voluntary severance would be used to reduce numbers. Sailors would commence with the unlashing operation and lashing would be phased-in over time. The Company later added that a bonus payment of £12,500 would apply to those who availed of the voluntary severance package within a defined period. The Union indicated that it would be prepared to consider the following:-
(1) Hours of cover over 7 days - 7.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. and 7.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m.
(2) Employees who are "red circled" i.e. on the £400 per week rate of pay, would, if they decided to leave, be replaced by workers on a lower rate
(3) The Union would be willing to look at the lashing separately to the unlashing.
Again, no agreement was reached and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 6th of March, 1998, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 28th of March, 1998.
3. 1. The industrial engineer's report clearly confirms that the perceived problems with the customers are not the fault of the dockers. The Company was only using the situation as an excuse to reduce numbers.
2. Dockers may only work an actual 19/20 hours per week but it is because of the nature of the business. The work is done quickly but is very intensive. The Company's proposals would affect other sections beside the dockers. The Company is profitable yet the number of dockers has reduced continuously over the years.
4. 1. The Company is the only ferry operation where dockers do the lashing/unlashing of trucks. In competitor companies, both in Ireland and the UK, sailors perform this function which significantly speeds up the process of discharging vehicles. Due to lashing/unlashing, the Company incurs the cost of 12 additional permanent dockers, plus casual dockers, while competitors perform the operation with their complement of seagoing staff.
2. Permanent dockers are paid £20 per hour for each hour worked. This results from only working an actual 19/20 hours per week, and makes the dockers rate of pay unique within the Company. The change in the working hours proposed plus the additional duties will help to address this anomaly.
The Court has considered the submissions and arguments put forward by the parties involved in this dispute.
The Court is of the view that the Company's proposals are driven by the lack of "best practice" and consequential implication on customer service. In these circumstances, the Company's proposals in principle are not unreasonable and should be accepted. However, the details obviously must be the subject of negotiation and agreement.
The Court, accordingly, recommends that the Union accepts a reduction in the number of dockers, such reduction to be achieved on a voluntary basis or through natural wastage. The Court notes the Company's offer of an additional bonus payment for those who apply within a defined period.
The Court further recommends that the parties should revert to local negotiations or use the offices of the Labour Relations Commission to negotiate all other outstanding items, including, particularly, phasing and new work practices plus payment of a lump sum for accepting change.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
6th April, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.