INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
FINSA FOREST PRODUCTS LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
MARINE, PORT AND GENERAL WORKERS' UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Dispute concerning the terms of a proposed Sick Pay Scheme.
2. The Company produces chipboard products for the Irish and UK markets and employs 136 workers. The introduction of a sick pay scheme in respect of hourly paid workers was recommended by the Labour Court in September, 1995. In LCR14895 the Court recommended "that negotiations be completed on or before 31st December, 1995." Subsequently a dispute arose in relation to rationalisation/redundancy issues and the sick pay scheme was not pursued at the time. In February, 1996 the Union reactivated the claim and sought a sick pay scheme which would give the workers 13 weeks at full pay. This scheme was already in operation for clerical and administration staff. The Company rejected the claim The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 29th of March, 1997. By letter dated 29th of April, 1997 the Industrial Relations Officer put forward a set of proposals in relation to a sick pay scheme which provided inter alia "excluding the first week of any illness benefit will be phased as follows:-
1996 6 3 weeks full pay, 3 weeks half pay per annum
1997 8 4 weeks full pay, 4 weeks half pay per annum
1998 10 5 weeks full pay, 5 weeks half pay per annum
1999 12 6 weeks full pay, 6 weeks half pay per annum
The proposal was accepted by the Company but rejected by the Union. A further conciliation conference was held on the 7th of November, 1997. Agreement was not possible. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 19th November, 1997. A Court hearing was held in Limerick on the 10th of March, 1998.
3. 1. The workers concerned expect to be treated equally with the workers in the clerical/administrative side of the Company. The workers have no difficulty whatsoever with fair and reasonable rules to protect the integrity of the scheme and ensure that no abuses occur.
2. The proposals which emanated from the Conciliation Conference were rejected by the workers because of the clause providing that they were required to give up the first week of any illness before benefit would become available to them, while colleagues in other areas benefited from day one. They also rejected the proposal because it did not given them equal benefits to those available to their colleagues in the Company. All other clauses 1-11 inclusive, were acceptable to the workers.
3. The Union's claim of February, 1996 is fair and reasonable. It is committed to monitor the scheme. The proposals as referred to in the Industrial Relations Officer's letter clearly provide all the protections necessary to ensure that no abuse takes place and both parties have stated their commitment to monitor the scheme to ensure that these undertakings are upheld.
4. 1. In 1995/1996 the Company was forced to implement a major rationalisation programme which resulted in substantial job losses and operational changes. It had become seriously uncompetitive. Notwithstanding such rationalisation, the Company agreed in good faith to introduce a non-contributory sick pay scheme. This represents an additional cost to the Company which will increase labour costs and cannot be passed on to the Company's customers.
2. As it is a new scheme it is imperative that the scheme contain appropriate control measures to ensure that it is not open to abuse. Current levels of absenteeism for hourly paid production workers runs at approximately 5.35%.
3. The proposed scheme (which followed extensive local level and further protracted discussions at conciliation) compares very favourably with the norm for such schemes in the industry. The application of the scheme is governed on economic grounds by the ability of the enterprise to absorb the costs associated with same.
4. The Union's claim for parity with the existing sick pay for administrative staff is entirely unjustified as these workers have different terms and conditions of employment. The staff scheme involves a small number of workers who have a very low absence level.
5. The Company has done its utmost to facilitate the introduction of an agreed equitable, non-contributory sick pay scheme following extensive discussions with the Union on a major rationalisation programme to secure the ongoing viability of the plant. The Company made substantial movement to try to attain agreement on a most reasonable sick pay scheme as proposed by the Industrial Relations Officer.
The Court recommends that the Company's final offer be amended as follows and accepted by the Union:-
1. That benefit be payable under the sick pay scheme from the 4th day of certified illness with effect from the 1st of January, 1998.
2. That an additional one week at full pay be introduced from the year 2000
3. That the operation of the scheme be comprehensively reviewed at the end of the year 2000.
The recommendation is made in the context of the current absentee levels and on the basis that no deterioration in that position will arise in consequence of the introduction of the proposed sick pay scheme. In addition to the comprehensive review recommended at 3 above, the parties should monitor the operation of the scheme on an ongoing basis and take immediate corrective measures (which could include the suspension of the scheme) in the event of any emerging trends which might indicate abuse of the scheme.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
27th March, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.