INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
UNIFI TEXTURED YARNS EUROPE LIMITED
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Dispute concerning transfer and compensation.
2. The Company manufactures textured yarns for the export and home market and employs approximately 800 workers at its Letterkenny plant. The dispute concerns 14 workers who are employed in the C and O (cleaning and overhaul) Department. In late 1997 the shift pattern of the work was changed from staggered day shift (premium 16 2/3%) to straight days. Following a successful trial period there was agreement in principle to the change and the only issue to be decided was the question of compensation. At local level negotiations a formula/package was agreed for recommendation by both parties which provided for the continuation of the staggered days' shift rate (including shift premium and supplementary hours) for a further three years. Following a ballot of the members the package was rejected. The Company then withdrew the offer and decided to transfer the 14 workers out of the C and O Department and on to other shift jobs in the factory. The Union requested the Company to re-instate the package. Management refused the request. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 25th of February, 1998. Agreement could not be reached and the dispute as referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 1st of April, 1998. A Court hearing was held on the 27th April, 1998. A Letter Recommendation was issued on the 15th of June, 1998.
3. 1. The Union sought the reinstatement of the package and a further ballot because workers were not aware of the possibility of being transferred to other shifts if the package was rejected. The Union requested the Company to allow the workers to remain in the C and O operation while the issue was referred to the Labour Relations
Commission. The Company in refusing this request breached the Plant Agreement
(Appendix 3, Stage 6) and agreed procedures.
2. The Company's reaction to the initial rejection of the compensation package was extremely unreasonable. The fact that the Company intended to transfer workers out of the area, and withdraw compensation as a consequence of rejection was a major change and certainly justified a second ballot. It would not have been the first time that a re-ballot on rejected proposals had taken place in the Company.
3. The Union accepts that the compensation offer was reasonable. This however might not necessarily be the situation in all cases in the future, and rejection of such offers could be used as a reason to transfer workers if the precedent set in this case is upheld. The Union cannot accept this situation.
4. The Union does not accept that the workers failed to carry out work to the required standard during the trial period or that they were uncooperative or belligerent. There were no complaints about their work nor were they disciplined. Two of the workers who could not move to 4 shift working were effectively given their own jobs back in the C and O Department.
5. The Company's claim that the C and O jobs have now been filled and are no longer available is ludicrous and self-serving. The Company has behaved unreasonably, unfairly, and vindictively in its treatment of the workers.
4. 1. The change of the operation to days was successfully implemented with a minor revision to the working hours and method required. However, during the course of the trial numerous problems arose with the C & O crew. A number of them transferred to days for the trial period grudgingly and were very uncooperative. There was ongoing problems with them to get the work completed on time and up to required standard. (Details supplied to the Court).
2. After the compensation package was negotiated and recommended for acceptance, questions were posed about the alternatives if the offer was rejected. The alternatives suggested included, the transferring of the existing crew to jobs involving no loss of earnings, and also the crew being forced onto normal days at normal rates pending the referral to the Labour Relations Commission.
3. When the package was rejected by a two to one majority, the Company indicated that it was withdrawing the offer and would accommodate the workers concerned on shift jobs with no loss of earnings. The Company did not pursue the option of forcing the C & O crew onto days at normal rates in view of their attitude during the trial period. The Company did not have the confidence in the existing crew to do the job to the required standard. The Company also felt that the workers being forced to take a major reduction in wages would have exacerbated the problem.
4. The workers were all offered jobs that ensured no loss of earnings and in accordance with the terms of the Plant Agreement the Company has the right to move workers from days to shifts as necessary. The workers were aware that the option of returning them to four cycle jobs would be considered if the offer was rejected. The C & O jobs have now been filled with other employees and are no longer available.
The fundamental cause of the present difficulties lies in the decision of the workers to reject the proposals negotiated by the Union and recommended for acceptance by their negotiating team. The Court accepts, however, that the Company did convey to the Union, in advance of the ballot, that if the proposals were rejected the dispute would be progressed through normal procedures. In the event, the Company withdrew the proposals and made alternative arrangements which did not involve any loss of earnings for the workers concerned.
The Court is satisfied that the manner in which this matter was handled by the Company left a lot to be desired and is not conducive to the maintenance of good industrial relations. In particular the Court feels that if the company intended to withdraw the proposals in the event of rejection it should have made that position clear before the ballot was taken.
The resultant situation is, however, practically irretrievable as other workers have since been assigned to the work in question. Moreover, the workers who are party to this dispute have not suffered any financial loss in consequence of their allocation to alternative duties.
In the circumstances the Court recommends that the two workers who have continued to work on the C&O crew should be paid the compensation originally proposed. Furthermore, as vacancies arise in the C&O crew, those of its original members who wish to revert to those duties should be favourably considered by the Company.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
19th June, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.