INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT SERVICES BOARD)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
IRISH MUNICIPAL, PUBLIC AND CIVIL TRADE UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Maximum number of bin lifts.
2. The Corporation introduced a wheeled bin collection service in late 1993. An agreement between the Unions and the Corporation in respect of the wheeled bin service was reached in 1996, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. Under the terms of the agreement, a fixed incentive payment of 8p per bin per crew member is made for the lifting of between 12,250 and a threshold figure of 15,250 bins per week. The threshold of 15,250 was subsequently increased to 15,700 in July, 1997 on foot of Labour Court Recommendation No. LCR15585. Payment for bins lifted in excess of 15,700 is 8p per bin, quarterly in arrears, with this payment fluctuating in line with actual verified bin lifts. While the agreement fixes the threshold for incentive payments, it does not fix a minimum lift figure. (The average weekly lift is approximately 16,000).
The workers have been refusing to lift in excess of approximately 16,000 bins since April, 1997. This is causing problems for the Corporation as, in effect, it cannot service any new customers who, consequently, have to engage private operators. The Corporation is seeking agreement from the Unions on a maximum lift figure of circa 18,000 which would be sufficient to meet foreseeable needs. The Corporation maintains that the increased maximum required can be carried out comfortably within the 39-hour week and argues that currently the workers, in effect, work a 34-hour week.
The Unions' position is, essentially, that it is not possible for the current crews to increase the number of bin lifts and that the only way to meet increased demand would be to deploy an additional truck and crew on the road (the Corporation has a reserve crew). The Unions argue that performance is well in excess of IPC-defined productivity standards, and that although bins are being lifted on the basis of a 34-hour week, this is because workers work through breaks, etc. Additionally, the Unions claim that the workers in question do not wish to take on an increased workload and the issue has nothing to do with remuneration.
The dispute was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, following which agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 13th of January, 1998 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation, in Limerick, on the 25th of March, 1998.
3. 1. The original threshold figure of 15,250, set in 1996, was based on a joint work study which agreed that a day's work for the four crews would be 12,250 bins at BS75. The fixed payment agreed in respect of bins lifted in excess of 12,250 to a maximum of 15,250 was in recognition of the four crews working in excess of BS75.
2. If the crews were working at BS100, it would mean about 16,333 bins being collected per week. The revised threshold figure of 15,700 bins per week, agreed from the 1st of July, 1997, means that the four crews are currently working at approximately 96% of BS100. However, the crews actually collect in excess of 15,700 bins per week for which they receive 8p per bin paid in quarterly arrears. An average of 16,000 bins per week are at present being collected which means that the crews are operating at approximately 98% of BS100.
3. Based on the fact that the original agreement in 1996 set a day's work for the four crews at 12,250 bins at BS75 and that they are now operating at approximately 98% of BS100, the four crews have reached their natural cut-off point. The Unions have always maintained that at some point a fifth truck would be required if the number of bins in the system increased to such a degree that their collection would be a physical impossibility for the four crews.
4. A cut-off point of 15,700 bins should be set and a fifth truck should now be deployed to collect bins over that figure. However, if steps were installed on the vehicles, as has been previously requested, a higher cut-off figure could be achieved.
4. 1. The Unions have claimed that the workers are not physically capable of dealing with a higher number of lifts than the present levels. However, a comparison with other local authorities (details supplied to the Court) carrying out the same service shows that significantly higher levels are achieved in all of the other local authorities.
2. Limerick Corporation is, at present, paying the highest rate of bonus of all the comparators and is receiving the least amount of productivity. The guaranteed bonus of £76.00 is supplemented by the fluctuating payments of 8p per bin per crew member for lifts in excess of 15,700. This results in average payments of approximately £80.00 per week of a bonus for an average lift of 3,925 per truck per week. In Fingal and South Dublin County Councils, lifts of 6,000 per week are agreed for a bonus of £50.00 per week.
3. The existing system of a fixed bonus is very attractive from the worker's point of view in that it allows the bonus to be consolidated in to basic pay and for pension purposes. However, the present claim is an attempt to exploit the method of payment of this bonus and its comparatively high level in relation to other local authorities. The Unions, having successfully negotiated the fixed bonus to the level they are satisfied with, are now seeking to make this the cut-off point beyond which no additional work is to be carried out.
4. Prior to the introduction of the bonus of 8p per bin per crew member compensation was by means of overtime payments. In arriving at the formula in relation to the 8p per lift, regard was had to the level of overtime payments already in place. The refuse collection service operates on a task and finish basis and the payment of overtime or bonus was always based on the assumption that excess hours would be involved. The present level of the fixed bonus equates to approximately 12 hours' overtime per week. However, an analysis of the working hours of the crews show that they are on average only working between 33 and 36 hours per week.
5. The Corporation accepts there is a need to set a maximum number of bin lifts. However, it is not accepted that the present activity levels come even near what the maximum level should be. In attempting to determine a maximum level, the Corporation has had regard to the circumstances of the comparator local authorities. The standards achieved in the Fingal and South Dublin County Council's agreements are most relevant to the Limerick situation, i.e., 6,000 lifts per truck per week. Taking local factors into account the limit of 5,000 lifts per truck per week would be reasonable for Limerick.
6. The Corporation is committed to the provision of a proper refuse collection service for the City. However, at present, such a service is not being provided, as the Corporation is not in a position to take on any new customers. Having regard to the comparable figures for other local authorities the Corporation cannot agree to purchase another truck at a cost of £150,000 and bear the additional staff and associated costs in a context of maximum level of only 3,925 bin lifts per week.
It is clear that a disagreement exists between the parties, in relation to the basis on which the current agreement was implemented. The Unions argue that the current figures were based on BS75 and BS100 while the Corporation argues that the figures currently operated were more the basis of an industrial relations solution.
The Unions argue that the employees are working flat out while the Corporation quotes examples to show that Limerick is the lowest area in productivity.
Whatever the merits of the above arguments, it is clear that the operation is now in practice for some time and that the operation has settled since the original survey.
The Court, therefore, recommends that a new survey be undertaken and agreement reached on all aspects of the operation, including the proper maximum level of bin lifts per truck.
This survey should be undertaken by the previous team and completed within two months of the date of this recommendation.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
8th May, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.