INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
JOHNSON BROTHERS LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Use of a covert security camera.
2. The Company is a sales, marketing and distribution company that supplies branded products to the retail trade. In 1995 Management informed the Union of its intention to install internal security cameras in the dispatch/warehouse area. In 1997, due to a significant number of stock discrepancies, the Company also installed a Warehouse Management System (WMS) which enabled it to monitor discrepancies as they occurred. In February, 1997, the Company identified discrepancies in a particular area of the warehouse and installed an additional security camera without the Union's knowledge. An employee was later dismissed for theft and has appealed his dismissal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal. The remaining workers are seeking a formal apology from the Company and compensation by way of payment of a donation to a charity of their choice. The issue was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission on the 18th of November, 1997. As agreement could not be reached the issue was referred to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation on the 27th of February, 1998.
3. 1. Management had every opportunity to discuss its intentions to investigate recurring stock loss or theft with the Union but failed to do so. Employees co-operated fully in the past with the installation of security cameras but were not given the opportunity on this occasion. The staff are incensed and outraged that Management betrayed their trust and placed all employees under suspicion of wrong doing.
2. Management's action was detrimental to the maintenance and development of a climate of good industrial relations. The Company should apologise to its workforce and should make a significant donation to a charity of their choice.
4. 1. The installation of the WMS reduced stock losses considerably which, had they continued, would have threatened the viability of the company. It would not have been practical to discuss the installation and location of the camera in February, 1997, as the person responsible for the theft may have been alerted.
2. There was no viewing monitor attached to the camera and tapes were only viewed by Management when a stock discrepancy occurred. The Company dismantled the camera when the cause of the discrepancy had been identified. Due to the nature of the problem and the fact that it could have been carried out by a member of staff or by an outside contractor, the Company was justified in its use of the camera.
The Court notes that the Union has previously agreed to the installation of a security surveillance system on condition that it would not be used for monitoring performance or in a way which invaded privacy. It has assured the Court that had agreement to the extension of that system been sought on similar terms, it would have been forthcoming.
Moreover, the Union would have been prepared to accept a general advice in that regard which would have been treated in confidence. This would indicate that the Union has adopted a commendably responsible stance on the question of security and there is no reason to believe that it would have acted differently on this occasion.
Against that background it is regrettable that the Company did not consider advising the Union of its intention to extend the system, in a way which could not have undermined its effectiveness, thus avoiding the current dispute. The Court would hope that should a similar situation arise again the Company would have due regard to the position of the Union, as outlined to the Court in the course of the hearing.
On that basis the Court recommends that the matter be now closed.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
13th March, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.