INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
IDV OPERATIONS (IRELAND) LIMITED
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Dispute concerning:-
(1) The appointment of six permanent workers
(2) Compensation for loss of position and status in respect of two workers.
2. The Company is the manufacturing company within the Gilbeys of Ireland Group. It employs 210 permanent and a number of temporary workers. The Union represents approximately 120 production workers who are employed in the Process, Bottling and Warehousing departments. There are five grades of staff in the production area (Grade B to F). The basic general operative grade is B, the highest grade is F. The Union's claims were rejected by the Company and the dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held on the 26th of November, 1997, but no agreement was reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 20th of January, 1998. A Court hearing was held on the 4th of February, 1998.
CLAIM 1. Background
3. In 1997, six appointments of workers to permanent positions in the production area were made from among the temporary workforce. They were graded at general operative level (Grade B), with a specific requirement to train and operate as machine operators (Grade C). These appointments were made from the agreed temporary recall list but the workers appointed were not from among the most senior workers on that list. The Union claimed that these workers (nine) were unfairly treated and refused to co-operate with the training of the six workers. Management rejected the claim stating that the six most suitable employees were appointed.
4. 1. The permanent positions are set at general operative level. All the claimants as well as the six new appointees operated at this level and had not previously functioned above this grade. All the workers could have only been assessed within this experience and service. It is very difficult to understand how the first nine applicants on the recall list were unsuccessful. They were also unsuccessful in a previous competition in 1995.
2. The claimants have given good and loyal service to the Company over many years and their disciplinary records are not in question.
3. The majority of the nine workers are older and female while the majority of those appointed are younger and male workers.
4. The practice of passing over long service temporary workers is demeaning, demoralising and unfair.
5. It is patently unfair that workers can be acceptable to the Company for significant periods of employment throughout the year, be available for work, by reliable and conscientious and yet are denied the benefits of permanent employment (pension/sick pay etc.).
6. The workers' future applications for permanent employment outside the Company are highly prejudiced by long term temporary service and failure to secure permanency.
7. The Union seeks the creation of six new positions and that seniority of service on the recall list be duly observed or alternatively that the workers be compensated in the form of access to the sick pay and bonus entitlements.
8. There is an agreement in force in relation to training. That agreement must be adhered to by management.
5. 1. It is management's responsibility to select the workers it regards as most suitable for a particular role based on its assessment of potential. Seniority is taken into account, (evidenced here by the fact that the six workers came from the recall list) but seniority cannot be the determining factor.
2. The recruitment and decision making processes used in this competition are fully consistent with previous processes and comply with written agreements.
3. The Union has argued that the decision is tantamount to declaring the unsuccessful candidates "unsuitable". This is not the case. The selection decision represents management's view of the most suitable workers who presented themselves in this particular competition. The selection decision does not interfere in any way with the rights or status of those unsuccessful candidates on the temporary recall list.
4. At conciliation management proposed that, in order to improve the objectivity of the recruitment process for any future appointments of workers to permanent positions, the Company would apply a basic skills assessment exercise to assist with its selection decision.
5. The Union is seeking a new approach to recruitment which is unacceptable to the Company and inconsistent with the real needs of the business. However, management acknowledge the Union's right to seek this change and to utilise agreed disputes procedures to pursue its objective.
6. The Company cannot accept a withdrawal of co-operations by refusing to train the six workers and an abandonment of procedures in an attempt to pressurise the Company to concede to the Union's demands. The Company is seeking a clear commitment from the Union that it will co-operate and adhere to agreed procedures now and in the future.
CLAIM 2. Background
6. The two workers concerned were employed as palletiser operators (Grade C) until March, 1996. At that time the palletiser machines were integrated into the bottling lines thus eliminating the requirement for operators. Both workers were redeployed to general operative positions (Grade B), however, their posts were red circled and earnings and benefits maintained. The Union submitted a claim for compensation on behalf of the two workers for loss of position and status. The Company rejected the claim.
7. 1. When the workers' jobs were amalgamated they indicated at all times that they wished to retain machine operators' positions. They were led to believe that machine posts would eventually be available to them. This did not happen.
2. The workers' status was lowered due to management's decision to alter technology in pursuit of greater efficiencies.
3. The workers' overtime opportunities were also reduced by their entry onto the general operative list.
4. There are precedents in the Company where, in cases of redeployment or loss of status, management negotiated an agreement specific to the circumstances of the department. This was done in the security and process areas (details supplied to the Court).
8. 1. It is the Company's contention that the red-circling arrangement applied to the two workers' represents very fair treatment in the circumstances and there is no case for compensation for loss of status.
2. The Company is not prepared to introduce a policy of paying for alleged loss of status - to do so would be a dangerous and restrictive precedent in a business which undergoes continuous change.
3. Both the claimants are entitled to apply for any suitable vacancy that arises. There has been no such vacancy in recent times (a Machine Operator positions did arise on Line 7 - neither worker applied, as it was a day position - both are currently paid a shift rate of 25%).
4. The Union is seeking to use a situation which arose in 1992 as a precedent to justify this claim. The previous case bears no resemblance to the situation here. It related to the elimination of chargehand positions in 1992 and the claim by SIPTU at the time for compensation for loss of differential. At that time the job evaluation exercise was in progress and there was a legitimate expectation on the part of chargehands of imminent upward adjustments - the abolition of the chargehand position at that time cut across the process. The negotiated figure represents a "settlement" in the light of this.
CLAIM 1. - Appointment of six permanent staff
Having considered the submissions and the arguments presented, the Court is satisfied that the Company acted in accordance with the Company/Union Agreements and accordingly the Court does not recommend concession of the Union's claim.
The Court accepts that the method of selection used is giving rise to discontent and accordingly recommends that the parties meet and further examine and agree a revised method which would allow for greater transparency.
CLAIM 2. - Two workers - compensation for loss of status etc.
The Court is satisfied that in applying a "red-circle" to the two claimants the Company has protected their status and accordingly finds no basis for recommending concession of the Union's claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
11th February, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.