INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Rate of pay.
2. Coillte was established in 1989 as a commercial state company. It was charged with the responsibility of conducting state forestry and associated business on a commercial basis.
The Union's claim is on behalf of 3 workers who are graded as inventory operatives. (Prior to the hearing the Company believed only 2 workers were involved). The Union claims that the 3 workers should have a pay rate equivalent to that of area foremen. There is also an issue involving the provision of Company transport for the 3 workers.
The workers are involved in a range of general duties (e.g. planting, fencing, maintenance etc.) and since 1995 have been engaged in inventory work in the Sligo area. This work involves the mapping of crops by species, age and production class.
The grade of area foreman was set up in 1995. Area foremen act in a senior supervisory role, travelling from forest to forest. Soon after the grade was set up, the area foremen were awarded a claim for travel allowance at the rate of 25 pence per mile. They were also provided with Company vans. The rate of pay for area foremen is £300 per week.
One of the 3 workers is on the Company's incentive bonus scheme and is paid by way of basic pay and a 'fixed' bonus. In 1995, a second worker opted to be paid by way of a production linked pay and received a £3,000 tax-free lump sum at the time.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and conciliation conferences took place in August and October, 1997. At the October conference, the Company offered to pay the workers concerned by means of a piece-rate system but this was
rejected by the Union. As the parties did not reach agreement the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 17th of December, 1997, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 11th of March, 1998, in Sligo.
3. 1. In recent times, there have been huge changes in the terms and conditions of employment of the workers concerned. The 3 workers travel distances equal to or in excess of that travelled by area foremen. While they do not travel from forest to forest, they can visit several locations within one forest during a day's work. The Company accepted that the area foremen should be supplied with vans because of the distances travelled (an average of 9,000 miles per year). The same conditions should apply to the 3 workers concerned.
2. The Company's claim that the worker who opted to be paid by way of production linked pay in 1995 received a 3% payment under Clause 3 of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress (PESP) is not true. Whilst he did receive a £3,000 lump sum, payslips for the 12th of March, 1998, show that he received £2.96 less than the worker who did not receive the 3% clause of the PESP. The piece-rate system offered by the Company is completely unacceptable.
4. 1. The work undertaken by the 3 workers is clearly not comparable to the role of area foremen. The 3 workers travel to 1 forest per day and remain there. They would not travel much within any of the 5 forests they cover. There is already a satisfactory mobility/travel arrangement in place for the workers. This arrangement was recently revised by way of Labour Court Recommendation No. 15536. The reason the Company offered vans to the area foremen was based on the role involved rather than the mileage.
2. The piece-rate system offered at the conciliation conference is fair and reasonable. The Company recognised the changing role of the industrial staff (of which the 3 workers are part) by applying the 3% pay rise under Clause 3 of the PESP to all staff who opted for the production linked system.
The Court considered the written and oral submissions made by the parties. While there have been changes in the work arrangement for the claimants, as for others in the organisation, the Court is not satisfied that the changes involved warrant concession of the Union's claims.
The Court, therefore, rejects the Union's claims in this case.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
27th April, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.