INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
THERMO-KING EUROPE LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
AMALGAMATED ENGINEERING AND ELECTRICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Dispute concerning the interpretation of the Company/Union Agreement.
2. The Company is involved in the design and manufacture of temperature control units. It employs 650 workers at its Galway plant and has two other factories at Shannon and Dublin. The dispute relates to the interpretation of the Company/Union agreement at the Galway plant. The Company claims that where a lawful and safe instruction is given to workers in connection with matters covered by the agreement, Section 10 requires workers to carry out the instructions, under protest if necessary. The Union rejects this interpretation and claims that the clause provides that the status quo - normal working - should remain until the issue in dispute is resolved, and that changes must be negotiated and agreed in advance of implementation. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 14th May, 1998. Agreement could not be reached and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 19th May, 1998. A Court hearing was held on the 4th June, 1998.
3. 1. The Union's position on substantial change is that it should be negotiated with the Union representatives. Failure to agree would result in the issue being moved on to the next stage of procedure. Coercion should not be used by either side to implement any change until such time as procedure is exhausted, in the event of agreement not being reached.
2. At various local level meetings on this issue the Company claimed that workers are obliged to carry out work 'under protest' in the event of their having a grievance. While the Dublin plant agreement includes a 'work under protest' clause there is no mention of such a clause in the Galway plant agreement.
3. The workers concerned are committed to work normally while procedures are being exhausted and will not enter into any form of industrial action during this time. Normal work is understood by the Union as accepted standards and conforming to the usual type of work.
4. The Union has proposed that the status quo clause of the Engineering Employers Federation handbook on national agreement be incorporated into the Company/Union agreement. Management rejected the proposal.
5. The Union seeks that the Court recommend the incorporation of this clause which reads as follows:-
"Where any party wishes to raise a matter for resolution, there shall be discussion at domestic or national level, as appropriate. It is agreed that in the event of any difference arising which cannot immediately be disposed of, then whatever practice or agreement existed prior to the difference shall continue to operate pending a settlement or until the agreed procedure has been exhausted. In order to allow for the peaceful resolution of any matter raised by any party, there shall be no stoppage of work, either of a partial or general character, such as a strike, lock-out, go-slow, work-to-rule, overtime ban or any other restriction, before the stages of procedure provided for in this Agreement have been exhausted".
4. 1. The relevant final paragraph in Section 10 of the Agreement states "..... during the time when these procedures are being followed normal working will continue and the aggrieved employee(s) will continue to carry out the instructions of the supervisor or other members of Management. Sub Section C provides "........ while the stages of the grievance procedure are being processed an aggrieved employee will continue to carry out Management instructions in full"
2. This type of agreement is fairly common and standard throughout industry. It recognises the fact that the grievance procedure is there to resolve grievances and yet recognises that required changes cannot be held up whilst the grievance takes its course through time.
3. Where Management give a legitimate or reasonable instruction to workers, and it is objected to, the workers should carry out the instruction and raise the grievance in the normal way.
4. Section 2 of the agreement provides that both parties recognise that the Company has the sole and exclusive right to manage its business including determining operational issues, improving efficiency/productivity etc.
5. The Company will negotiate with the Union on all major issues. However there are many operational matters of secondary importance which the Company through its Management structure, will seek to implement.
6. Working under protest was an accepted practice until recently when numerous incidents have occurred (details to the Court). The Union's approach is a challenge to the Company's right to manage. Change will be impossible to implement if the Union's interpretation is accepted. The Company cannot accept that even minor changes sought by Management are now subject to veto by the Union.
7. Over the years there have been a number of references to third parties, including the Labour Court, where changes have been sought/introduced and implemented and the Union raised objections either over compensation levels or terms and conditions of the
changes. The changes have been implemented and supported by third parties including the Labour Court, with slight modifications.
8. The Company provides excellent pay and conditions of employment to its workers. By definition any company in the market place is subject to changes and these can be either minor or major restructuring changes. Management in the Company must be able to bring about change simply to remain competitive. The Union is attempting to place a veto on the Company on any change, however minor, and this is totally unacceptable.
While the issue before the Court is one of interpretation of an Agreement it is clear that the problems are much more serious given the Company's stated aspiration for World Class Manufacturing status.
The disagreement appears to revolve around the interpretation of 'normal working' and the definition of 'the status quo'. It is extremely difficult to be definitive in regard to normal working and while the Court could attempt to lay down a definition it is unlikely to resolve the present impasse. However, the Court is conscious that the present agreement has worked to the satisfaction of the parties up to recent times.
The Court is concerned at the deterioration in working relationships surrounding this issue and for this reason, recommends that the parties sit down to address the wider issues surrounding this problem in order to reach an accommodation.
If these discussions fail to resolve the issue, then the Court will, on request, issue a definitive recommendation.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
19th June, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.