INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
ROSCREA FRESH FOODS
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Appeal against Rights Commissioner's Recommendation No. 131/98.
2. The Company, which is part of the Avonmore/Waterford Group, produces meats and processed meat products mainly for the domestic market. This plant currently employs 93 employees in the production facility and twenty in the sales and distribution network.
The appeal concerns a claim on behalf of one worker for compensation for loss of earnings arising from his redeployment from shift work to day work, in August, 1997. The Union claimed that the worker, who had worked on shift from the commencement of his employment with the Company, in 1989, until the move to day work, should receive compensation of 104 times the weekly loss incurred by him. The Company rejected the claim, offering compensation of seven weeks' loss of earnings. Agreement on the matter was not reached by the parties and the dispute was the subject of an investigation by a Rights Commissioner who found that there was merit in the Union's claim for compensation for loss of shift premium, but did not find that the amount claimed was reasonable. He recommended that the worker be paid a once-off lump sum equivalent to 13 weeks' loss of shift premium, in full and final resolution of the dispute. The Union appealed the Rights Commissioner's recommendation to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Court heard the appeal, in Thurles, on the 24th of November, 1998.
1. The Company is part of one of the largest food-processing companies in Europe. The very generous terms agreed with the Group on their rationalisation plan are well-documented and set trends in relation to future loss of remuneration to employees in the Group.
2. In 1995, prior to the amalgamation, the Company introduced a re-structuring plan dealing with the various issues, which provided, inter alia, that the Company would no longer pay shift premium for a normal working day and that compensation would continue to be paid for 13 weeks after the implementation of the plan. The Union did not agree that, in respect of permanent workers on normal shift cycles, who suffered loss of shift premium, the figure of 13 weeks' compensation would apply in all future cases.
3. The Company's performance level and profitability is improving constantly, due mainly to the contribution of the workforce. The loss of £32 per week to this worker is a very significant reduction to his weekly earnings and a worthwhile compensation package should be paid to him. Compensation equivalent to 13 weeks' loss of earnings is a derisory amount, in view of the Group's profitability.
4. Considerably higher compensation packages have been implemented in other companies for loss of earnings arising from loss of shift premium (details supplied to the Court).
1. Given the depressed state of the pig meat business, it is imperative that the Company exercises a tight control of all its costs. In this case, the worker received the benefit of shift premium when he worked shift, in recognition of the unsociable element and inconvenience involved. As a result of the relocation of the "pudding operation" to Blessington, the requirement for shift work in the area ceased. As the worker was no longer required to work shift, the Company does not accept that compensation for loss of shift should arise. In any event, the worker was not given a guarantee of continuous shift work, given the nature of the Company's business.
2. The transfer from shift work to day work was in accordance with the Company/Union agreement. The local Union representatives were informed of the implication of the relocation of the pudding operation and the worker was advised of the situation afterwards.
3. When the claim was raised on behalf of the worker, the Company agreed to make an offer of compensation to the worker concerned. At the time, the Union sought the equivalent of 13 weeks' loss, which was categorically rejected by the Company, which made an offer of 7 weeks' compensation.
4. Over the past 2 years, the worker's average earnings here actually increased substantially due to working extensive overtime. While this overtime cannot be quantified, the worker has been given the opportunity to work overtime on a regular basis.
5. Concession of this claim would have repercussive effects throughout the Company because such changes in work patterns are widespread and necessary to the running of the Company's business.
6. In Labour Court Recommendation LCR14443, in similar circumstances, the Court rejected a claim for compensation for loss of shift premium, arising from employees being reassigned to day work from shift work. In the Company, a precedent exists for payment for loss of shift processing, amounting to 13 weeks' loss (details supplied to the Court).
The Court, having considered the written and oral submissions, finds that the recommendation of the Rights Commissioner is the most appropriate way to resolve this issue. The Court, therefore, upholds the Rights Commissioner's recommendation and rejects the appeal by the Union.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
16th December, 1998.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.