INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
AUTOMOBILE, GENERAL ENGINEERING AND MECHANICAL OPERATIVES UNION
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Introduction of the two year transition period.
2. The Company operates at 44 locations throughout the country and employs approximately 585 craft and general workers. In December, 1997, in accordance with the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, the Company sought to reach agreement with the Unions to implement a two year transition period for the number of hours to be worked in 1998 and 1999. The Unions refused to sign an agreement on the transition period unless an arrangement was put in place to protect the workers' future earnings. A number of meetings were held but the parties failed to resolve the issue.
In April, 1998, the Unions balloted their members on reversion to a 39 hour week until an agreement could be reached on the protection of earnings issue. The dispute was the subject of a conciliation conference on the 15th of May, 1998, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. As agreement was not possible the dispute was referred to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Unions agreed to suspend industrial action pending a Labour Court hearing, which was held on the 5th of June, 1998.
3. 1. The workforce, many of whom have long service in the company, have contributed greatly to its success. While the company had profits in excess of £253 million this
year, 16% of which is attributable to the Irish operation, the workers had to work excessive hours of overtime to supplement their low basic wage. It has become the norm within the company that overtime earnings can contribute up to 42% of annual salary.
2. Earnings must be protected now and arrangements put in place that will comply with the Organisation of Working Time Act. The workers do not accept that the monitoring committee can solve the problem of reduced earnings during the transition period. Existing earnings should be guaranteed now and any differences in rates could be offset by greater flexibility or greater productivity.
3. There are various options which could be explored by the parties such as a guaranteed 48 hour week with 52.5 hours' pay. The new salary should be pensionable and applicable for holidays and sick pay benefit. Annual bonuses, the sick pay scheme and the pension scheme could be revised, while a profit sharing scheme/gain sharing scheme, as provided for under Partnership 2000, could be introduced.
4. 1. The legislation provides for a two year transition period during which there will be no change in relation to the hours worked when compared to the hours worked in 1997. Employees will, therefore, suffer no loss of earnings during the transition period.
2. The Company intends to participate actively on the monitoring committee, which will include employer and trade union representatives. It will review the operation of the legislation, identify difficulties and propose changes where necessary.
3. It is inappropriate to enter into discussions on earnings in relation to the Year 2000. No- one can predict the status of the business environment or what changes or flexibilities might be put in place following the deliberations of the monitoring committee.
4. The Unions' claim, which is directed at this company alone, is an opportunistic pay claim and is in breach of Partnership 2000. Any industrial action taken by the workers would put the company at a competitive disadvantage. It could lead to a loss of business, the closure of marginal locations and the growth of non-union jobs.
The Court has given careful consideration to all the points raised by the parties to this dispute. In dealing with them the Court had to take into account the objective of the Working Time Act, which was introduced and passed into law as primarily a health and safety measure. The provisions of the Act were welcomed by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and are obligatory. This claim is presented during the transition period which was agreed in order to facilitate the introduction of the 48 hour limit in a manner that would alleviate the impact on employees.
In the context set out above, the Court could not consider recommending concession of the Unions' claim for protection of earnings, which is contrary to the spirit of the Act and is also in breach of Clause 6 of Partnership 2000.
The Court understands that a Monitoring Committee has been established to deal with difficulties which may arise in implementing the Act. The Court recommends that, as both parties are represented on this Committee, the Unions' problems should be addressed at this level. In the event that there are unresolved issues at a later stage the parties may refer back to the Court.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
22nd July, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.