INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Extended Trading.
2. The dispute concerns the Company's proposals to extend its trading hours. The Company first made its proposals in November, 1996, and a first meeting took place in February, 1997. Numerous meetings followed at which the Union voiced the concerns of the workers. Chief among the concerns were (a) the lack of an opt-out clause for workers who wished to retain their present hours of work and (b) the intention to trade on the 27th of December. Following failure to reach agreement, the dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). A conciliation conference took place but was inconclusive.
More meetings took place and on the 17th of October, 1997, a new set of proposals included an opt-out clause. However, the 27th of December trading still caused a problem and the proposals were rejected by secret ballot. The dispute was then referred back to the LRC and 2 conferences took place on the 30th of January and the 6th of February, 1998. The Industrial Relations Officer (IRO) drew up a set of proposals (details supplied to the Court) which both sides agreed to recommend but the proposals were again rejected by the members. Some days later, the Company announced that it intended to commence extended trading from the 5th of May, 1998, using new employees on new contracts and existing staff who opted-in.
The issue of contracts is one that is causing problems for the Union, with the definition of "new contract staff" being the main problem. The Union claims that there are workers employed by the Company who, for one reason or another, were not given written contracts and are now being asked to sign a new contract. The Union also claims that
the wording in the contracts is ambiguous and that some agreements specify new contracts as those coming in from the date of agreement. The Union will not recognise contracts outside the scope of current agreements.
Another issue that was raised at the Labour Court hearing was that Assistant Department Managers (ADMs) who were part of the Union's collective bargaining have been made a separate and enhanced offer. The offer was not made through the Union. The basic final proposals at the 2 conciliation conferences were as follows:
Opt-Out Clause: As a gesture of goodwill, workers who wished to remain on existing contracts would benefit financially (details supplied to the Court).
Good Friday/December 27th: Both days would now be working days. As a result, annual leave would increase by 2 days. The Union wanted the December 27th issue dealt with as a separate item to the overall proposals.
Sunday/Public Holiday Trading: An opt-out clause would exist for all existing staff. Sunday trading would form part of the normal roster for new contract staff.
4.5 Day Week: The Company proposed a 4.5 day (37.5 hours) working week. The Union claims that the hours could be worked in a 4 day week or possibly, alternative 4 and 5 day weeks.
As agreement was not reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 11th of March, 1998, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 3rd of April, 1998.
3. 1. Opt-Out Clause: About 80% of staff questioned indicated that they wished to retain their present working arrangements. Reasons given were childminding arrangements, public transport difficulties, safety for women on late night work and requirement to spend time with their families. Because the nature of the work in Arnotts is so much customer/staff based, commission is an extremely important part of staff earnings. The Union had insisted that those workers who opted-out of working the new hours (thus losing commission) would receive an on-going payment. The Company now appears to be doing a u-turn on this matter.
2. 4.5 Day Week: There is little merit in travelling to work for a half-day as it incurs most of the same costs as a full day. Workers could cover the hours in a 4 day week.
3. December 27th: This is a major issue to any agreement. The social value put by the staff on the 27th of December is great. Opting-out is not a simple choice as commission earned on that day would be considerable.
4. Sunday/Public Holiday Trading: The main problem is the issue of contracts and whether staff who have been with the Company for 2 years or more but do not have written contracts will be given a "new contract" and have to work Sundays. Some newer members of staff, i.e. employed since October 1996, have said that they were not told about Sunday trading.
4. 1. The Company has invested £45 million in a new shopping store in Dublin. This is a major investment and the Company must extend its opening hours if it is to remain competitive. Failure to do so would see the investors taking their monies elsewhere.
The main objective of management is to safeguard its investment, its retail business and the jobs of its employees.
2. Opt-Out Clause: There is an opt-out clause for any current workers who wish to avail of it. The Company has offered a 1% pay increase plus a lump-sum to workers who remain on their existing contracts but will work alongside their colleagues on new contracts.
3. 4.5 Day Week: The Company has looked at all rosters but decided that the 4.5 day week is the most appropriate. The 4 day week suggested by the Union would not work.
4. December 27th: The Company is not adverse to postponing the application of this section of the agreement. It would be willing to wait until 2002 for it to take effect.
5. Sunday/Public Holiday Trading: Since November, 1996, over 90 staff have been recruited on 3 new contracts. All applicants were informed at interview that Sunday trading would be required as part of the normal working week. The 2 most recent contracts contained a specific reference to Sunday trading.
The Court, having considered the written and oral submissions, recommends that the employees accept the Labour Relations Commission's proposals with the following modifications:-
(1) Stillorgan Branch to be excluded from the proposals.
(2) Christmas trading on 27th December not to be introduced until 2002.
(3) Compensation for loss of earnings for those opting out of new arrangements to be calculated after 12 months operation of new system. Compensation to be paid at 1.5 times the annual loss. (The Court notes the Company view that with increased business the employees will not suffer any loss).
(4) Sunday/Public Holiday Trading to be confined to those who have it stated in their Contracts of Employment or where it was clearly agreed with new employees.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
20th April, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.