INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
LIEBHERR CONTAINER CRANES LIMITED
REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Agreement on 39-hour week.
2. The Company is involved in the manufacture of cranes for a world-wide market and is based in Killarney, Co. Kerry. In 1990, an agreement was reached between the parties concerning the implementation of a 39-hour week. The agreement allowed for time-off in lieu for the 40th hour worked, by way of 4 fixed 'compensation' days off (the day after St. Patrick's Day, 1 day each at the June and August bank holidays and 1 day after Christmas). In addition, the plant would close 2 hours earlier than previously on the last Friday of May, June, July and August and 1 hour earlier on the last Friday of each of the other 8 months.
The Company is now seeking to amend this agreement and to revert to the original intention of the national 39-hour/week agreement, i.e., one hour off per week. The grounds for the change is that the Company is worried about the impact of the current arrangement on its operational and business requirements. The Union has rejected the notion of any adjustment to the 1990 agreement. The dispute was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, at which agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court, on the 19th of January, 1998, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation, in Killarney, on the 31st of March, 1998.
3. 1. The Company does not seek to renege on, or to overturn, its agreement with the employees. It does, however, seek the employees' understanding in view of the difficulties that this arrangement has caused for the successful operation of the Company.
2. In the current highly competitive market-place, ability to manufacture and deliver cranes at short notice is of critical importance. The production span for a typical container crane was 7-9 months. However, in the last three/four years, orders which demand delivery times of 6-8 months, have had to be accepted. Production hours are, typically, in the range of 22,000-28,000 hours per crane. The 3 closing days in March, June and August result in a loss of capacity equivalent to approximately 3,000 production hours. A competitive edge is lost in respect of every crane in production during those months.
3. Absenteeism, through holidays, sickness, etc., peaks in the days following the compensation days. This results from a tendency of employees to 'bunch' holidays, i.e., taking one, two or three days in addition to the bank holidays and compensation days.
4. It is important that the Company provides an efficient and rapid after sales and breakdown service. This applies also from a sales and marketing point of view, where staff must be available at all times to answer customer queries on contract negotiations. These aspects of the business are also seriously hindered.
5. The National Agreement of Working Time clearly refers to a reduction of one hour on a weekly basis rather than an accumulation of such hours. Furthermore, in negotiating such agreement, it was specifically stated that due regard must be had to the costs involved, the implications for competitiveness, the need for flexibility, the effect on production and services, etc., all of which have been hindered by the current arrangements. Given that the issue is having a negative impact of the business of the Company, the Company's proposals for change are fully in accordance the PNR provisions under which reduced working time was introduced in the first place.
4. 1. The workers have become accustomed to the arrangements put in place with the implementation of the 1990 agreement and are not disposed to have those arrangements altered and have, accordingly, not given the Union a mandate to do so.
2. The Union put a proposal to the Company in relation to floating holidays which was rejected and the workforce was obliged to revert to its position of total opposition to the changes sought by the Company.
3. The Union is at a loss to understand the reasoning for the Company's insistence on change. The Company enjoys a very high degree of flexibility from the workers and, at no time, has there been any delay in despatching finished product to the workplace.
Having considered the submissions, the Court recommends that the Company agree to continue the present hours of work arrangements for a further 12 months. In the meantime, the parties should meet to review the position and assess the impact on the Company and agree an alternative, if necessary. The parties may seek the assistance of the Labour Relations Commission at that stage if they consider it advisable.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
20th April, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.