INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY FEDERATION)
- AND -
BUILDING AND ALLIED TRADES UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Payment of wages (Smithfield site).
2. The dispute concerns a claim by the Union for compensation for loss of earnings on behalf of eight bricklayers when the site in Smithfield was closed down by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).
The Union claims that there had been a problem with the safety aspect of the site for some time. Following an accident at the site, in which a worker was seriously injured, the HSA closed the site until safety improvements were put in place. The site was closed from the 26th of March, 1998 to the 10th April, 1998.
The Union is claiming compensation for loss of earnings suffered by its members during the period the site was closed.
Management rejected the Union's claim and stated that the Company had no alternative but to lay-off staff following the closure of the site.
As no agreement was possible between the parties the dispute was referred to the Conciliation Service of the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held on the 4th of August, 1998 but no agreement was reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 20th of August, 1998 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 19th of October, 1998.
3. 1. The Union's safety representative on site brought various matters in relation to safety to management's attention which were not acted upon.
2. If management had taken the appropriate action, closure of the site could have been avoided.
3. Employees working on a building site are entitled to a safe working environment. The Company failed to provide this service.
4. The workers concerned have suffered financial loss as a result of the site being closed by the Health and Safety Authority. They should be compensated for the loss of those earnings.
4. 1. The cause of the accident at the site was due to the unauthorised removal of planks and handrails without the knowledge of management.
2. The Company is prepared to pay enhanced piece rates for work done after normal working hours as a means of compensating those for loss of earnings during the shut-down.
3. The Company was able to secure alternative employment at other sites for most of the workers, except for the workers concerned in this dispute.
4. Concession of this claim would have repercussive effects throughout the building industry.
The Court considers that the circumstances of this case are significantly different from those of a "lay-off", in the normally accepted use of that term. The cessation in work at the site resulted from an assessment by a statutory authority of a real and imminent risk to the safety of employees if work were to be continued.
The Court accepts that the site Safety Representative had made prior representations to the Company in relation to hazardous conditions. It appears likely that if these matters had been adequately attended to the closure of the site might have been avoided.
In all the circumstances the Court recommends that the dispute be resolved on the basis that the Union members who;
(a) were employed immediately before the closure,
(b) resumed work on the re-opening of the site, and,
(c) have shown evidence of having claimed unemployment benefit,
should be paid compensation equal to their actual loss of earnings less the amount of Social Welfare Benefit which they received in respect of the period of closure. The amount involved in individual cases should be agreed between the parties.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
3rd December, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.