INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 33(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1946
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
AMALGAMATED TRANSPORT AND GENERAL WORKERS' UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Interpretation of agreement.
2. The Company and the Union are the parties to an agreement, registered with the Labour Court on the 8th of October, 1990. The agreement made at the time of the re-opening of the Clonmel plant establishes procedures, rates of pay and conditions of employment.
Following an incident on the 16th of March, 1998, which resulted in the loss of a full day's production, the Company wrote to the Labour Court seeking an interpretation of the REA under Section 33(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946, specifically of the clauses relating to procedures and, what is permissible action within the terms of the agreement. The Court considered the matter in Clonmel on the 30th of June, 1998. The parties made written submissions which were expanded upon orally at the hearing. The Court issued its decision by letter on the 2nd of July, 1998.
3. 1. It is the Union's view that serious problems have developed since the autumn of 1996 when management stated that the Clonmel plant had the worst record in the Barlo Group. The statement surprised the Union because at that time there was a good record of industrial relations and the REA was working successfully.
2. The Company has been in breach of the REA since June, 1997 by refusing to attend a conciliation conference in relation to the suspension of a shop steward. The Company would not attend on the basis of the Union's agenda of unfair suspension, loss of earnings, and the withdrawal of a letter dated the 17th of April,1997.
3. The Union has proposed on a number of occasions that the Labour Relations Commission's Advisory Service be retained to carry out an examination of the existing industrial relations problems and the underlying causes, and to make a recommendation in the best interests of the Company and the workforce.
4. 1. The REA came into being at the Union's request at the conclusion of a long strike in September, 1990. Its purpose was to stabilise relations and to provide a foundation for orderly conduct of industrial relations through the use of agreed procedures.
2. The trade union invokes the REA where relevant in pursuit of any claim which it may have.
3. The Company is satisfied to operate the REA on condition that it is observed by both parties.
4. The agreement cannot provide stability if there is dispute about its terms and their effect, specifically what is required of the parties in observing procedures.
5. The Company is seeking an interpretation of the requirements of the agreement and whether the conduct of the incidents set out (details supplied to the Court) represent an adherence to or breach of those procedures.
The Registered Employment Agreement is clear in precluding any form of industrial action until the issues in dispute have been processed through the procedures specified in the Agreement and these procedures are exhausted. Moreover, the Agreement requires the giving of fourteen days' notice of industrial action, after procedures have been exhausted.
It is also clear to the Court that the issues which gave rise to the Company's request for clarification, and the Union's response to those issues, are symptomatic of a serious deficiency in the overall state of industrial relations. The Court recommends that the parties commit themselves fully to observing the terms of the REA. They should then take immediate appropriate measures to address the underlying industrial relations problem.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.