INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
BORD GAIS EIREANN
- AND -
MANUFACTURING, SCIENCE, FINANCE
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Retrospection on pay award.
2. The dispute before the Court concerns the Union's claim on behalf of two workers employed by the Company as engineers.
In early 1996, the Union raised the matter of regrading on behalf of the workers concerned. The positions were assessed and as a result the workers were regraded to M.3 in the management pay structure. This was implemented with effect from the 1st of January, 1997.
The Union is seeking that the regrading be applied retrospectively to 1991 and 1993. It argues that the Company is in breach of the Company/Union procedural agreement in that it failed to process the claim prior to 1996 despite repeated requests from the workers concerned.
The Company's position is that 'custom and practice' relating to retrospection has been to apply the date of implementation to a date one month following which the claim was officially lodged, which in this case is March, 1996.
Local level discussions failed to resolve the issue and the matter was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference took place on the 22nd of September, 1997. As agreement could not be reached the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 11th of March, 1998. A Labour Court hearing took place in Cork on the 28th of May, 1998.
3. 1. The workers should not be penalised because of the Company's refusal to process the claims until 1997.
2. One of the workers concerned was appointed to the position of Interconnector Operations Manager in 1993. He requested a regrading to Grade M.3 based on the additional duties and responsibilities of the position. The Company failed to process the claim despite repeated requests from the worker. Eventually management responded in December, 1996, 3.5 years after his appointment.
3. In the case of the other worker, management stated in October, 1996 that there was some kind of administrative error and that he should have been assimilated on to Grade M.4 when the rest of colleagues were assimilated on to new grades in 1991. Management also supported his application for regrading to Grade M.3.
4. The Company is in breach of the Company/Union procedural agreement which establishes a series of stages through which claims should be processed. These claims were submitted in accordance with the agreement and the only reason for the delay in processing the claim was the Company's refusal to adhere to these procedures. The operative date for these claims should be the date at which they were submitted to the line manager and the upgradings should apply from that date rather than when the issue reached stage 4 of the procedural agreement.
4. 1. Any changes to the 'custom and practice', which previously applied to claims from one month after the date of official application by the Union would create a dangerous precedent for industrial relations harmony within the Company.
2. This policy by the Union only encourages staff to enter claims so that any future changes in responsibilities and accountabilities which might impact on grading, can be applied retrospectively.
3. The Union did not identify retrospection to circa 1993 as an integral part of its claims.
4. The Human Resource Department must act as the final arbiters in the processing of claims to ensure that sectional interests do not jeopardise overall industrial relations harmony.
5. The workers concerned were not materially/financially disadvantaged by the changes in duties.
6. In view of the project nature and the evolving training element and the changes in the original job description to the time of assessment there can be no case to answer in respect of retrospection to circa 1993.
7. Should the Court decide that there is a case to answer, it is the Company's view that the appropriate date is one month after the official lodgement of the issue by the Union which in this case is March, 1996.
The Court feels that in this case there was an unwarranted delay on the part of the Company in responding to the employees' claims. While the employees were also somewhat lethargic in their pursuance of the matter, it would be unfair to restrict retrospection to the date on which the claim was formally raised under stage 2 of the Company disputes procedure.
Had the Company responded to the claims within a reasonable time of their being raised at stage 1, the present difficulties may have been avoided. The process would then have moved to stage 2, which in the Company's submission is the appropriate point from which retrospection can be claimed.
The Court considers that in this particular case a period of up to three months should have been sufficient for the Company to evaluate the claims and respond to the individual claimants. On that basis the Court recommends that retrospection be paid to a date three months following the agreed date on which each claim was served (i.e. October, 1993 in the case of worker 1 and October, 1994 in the case of worker 2).
This recommendation is made in the context of the particular circumstances which apply in this case and should not be regarded as having any precedent value for any other claims arising within the Company.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
22nd June, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.