INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
BWG FOODS LTD
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Wage Structure.
2. The Company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Irish Distillers Plc. and has two operations in Limerick city, a distribution centre and a cash and carry outlet. The dispute concerns a claim on behalf of 6 clerical staff for an increase in their basic rates of pay on the basis of the following:-
1. The use of new technology and new systems (their counterparts in the Company's Dublin operation receive a 10% technology allowance);
2. Recognition of posts of responsibility;
3. Increased workload arising from the expansion of the Limerick branch following closure of the Company's Galway operation.
The current 6-point pay scale ranges from £144 to £208 per week, plus phase 1 of Programme 2000 (P2000) from June, 1997. The Company proposed a package which, inter alia, extended the pay scale by 2 points to £225, plus P2000. This was rejected by the Union locally. The matter was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, following which a revised set of proposals emanated which were, essentially, the Company's proposals, with amendments.
The amended package was, however, rejected by the workers concerned. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court, on the 17th of February, 1998, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation, in Limerick, on the 24th of March, 1998.
3. 1. The basic rate in the Limerick operation (£144.01 p.w. to £208.09 p.w., since June 1997) compares unfavourably with the rate in Dublin of £140.49 to £234.73, since October, 1996. Additionally, the clerical/administrative staff in Dublin receive a 10% non-consolidated technology allowance on top of their basic rates. At the top of the scale, in October, 1996, this amounted to £1,220 per annum. In the Limerick wholesale operation, the level of technology and systems is at least as advanced as that in Dublin.
2. The closure of Premier Wholesale in Galway, with the loss of fourteen jobs, resulted in over 50% of the Galway accounts being diverted to Limerick. This resulted in a substantial increase in the workload in the Limerick office.
3. When their rates are compared to the rates for similar jobs in other employments, the staff in question are poorly rewarded for the work they do. Currently, the retail non-commission rate has a maximum of £220.71 p.w. with a 7.5% differential for posts of responsibility. There is no recognition at all for posts of responsibility in the Company.
4. Given the work and responsibility of the workers, their rates of pay are seriously out of line when compared with staff doing similar work in other organisations. It is obvious from their job descriptions that they play an important part in administering the wholesale business. With employment opportunities improving, workers with their experience could command a rate of £300 per week.
4. 1. The existing wage structure for clerical employees in Limerick was originally agreed with MANDATE. It is a separate and distinct wage structure specific to the Limerick operation and up to date of this claim had been accepted by MANDATE. Separate and distinct clerical wage structures operated within Cork, Limerick, Galway and Ballyshannon. The only clerical employees who are in receipt of this so-called 10% non-consolidated technology bonus are in Dublin. This payment has existed for a considerable period of time over and has evolved historically. There is no justification for concession of an enhanced payment for co-operation with new technology which in many respects makes the job easier to do. Turnover is far higher in the Dublin operation and the terms and conditions of employment in Dublin appropriate to the higher costs of living associated with living and working in Dublin.
2. The Company engaged in positive discussions on the claim and made an all-inclusive proposal which reflected a revised clerical wage-structure. Although this proposal represented a significant improvement in the rates of pay of the workers in question and was made in good faith in an effort to resolve the workers' claims, it was rejected by them. The Industrial Relations Officer's proposal represented a further improvement on the Company offer but it too was rejected, despite having been recommended for acceptance by Union representatives.
3. Given the fact that the Company has decided to rationalise the number of its distribution centres nation-wide, it is imperative that the Limerick management maintains a tight control over its labour costs. Such costs for the operation account for over 60% of overall costs. The Company operates in a high volume low margin type of business where prices and quality of service to the customer are crucial to the retention of business. Margins are continually under pressure and the competition is increasing at an alarming rate. The Company has to compete directly with Musgraves, Barrys, Mangans, Punches as well as Hendersons from the North of Ireland. The entry of the bigger multiples like TESCO and the impending arrival of both Sainsbury's and Safeway will further saturate the market. Turnover for 1997 was £550,000 down on budget for the Limerick depot.
4. Concession of the Union's claim could have serious knock-on effects in the Company's remaining 34 distribution and cash and carry outlets throughout the country and would undermine industrial relations and impact adversely on labour costs.
Having considered the written and oral submissions and the background history of these negotiations the Court recommends that the Employees accept the proposals as drawn up by the Labour Relations Commission, including the clarification given at the hearing on the Office Supervisor's post.
However, the Court notes the concerns of the Employees in relation to further work being transferred to them, when other restructuring takes place. The Court, therefore, further recommends that this situation be monitored and reviewed in 6 months' time.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.