INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
(IRISH WOMEN WORKERS' BRANCH)
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Interpretation of Company/Union Agreement.
2. There are two branches of SIPTU involved in this claim - the Irish Women Workers' Branch (IWWB) and the Printing Trades Branch (PTB). This case involves the IWWB.
The claim involves the interpretation of a Company/Union Agreement from December, 1995, on crewing and flexibility. Clause 6 of the Agreement states:-
"Each employee will be paid the 5% binding rate
on their basic rate."
(Employees who became permanent after the Agreement would not receive the additional 5%).
In 1995, following changes in the printing industry, the Company was forced to develop alternative customers. One of these customers was an international fulfilment company. The work involved with this company was different in that the binding element was much greater. As a result, Smurfit Print approached both branches of SIPTU to negotiate revised practices in the binding and despatch department.
A number of meetings took place in 1995 and in December, 1995, the Company offered to pay all workers in the binding and despatch department the 5% binding rate plus a £1,500 lump sum. The dispute arose because a number of worker (approximately 12) were already in receipt of the 5% binding rate. The Unions view is that these 12 workers should have received an additional 5% pay increase on top of their wage which already included the 5% binding rate. The Company's view is that the Agreement meant that all workers in the binding and despatch department would have the 5% binding rate. As such, the 12 workers would not receive an additional 5% pay rise, only the £1,500 lump
sum. At one of the meetings, the Union asked that a forklift rate of 4% would also be paid and the lump sum (at that time £750) be increased. The Company stated that it could not afford to pay an additional 4% on top of the 5% binding rate. It did agree to increase the lump sum to £1,500.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and two conciliation conferences took place on the 23rd of April, 1996 and the 18th of July, 1997. As no agreement was reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 17th of February, 1996, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 20th of April, 1998.
3. 1. The Union accepted the agreement in December, 1995, because it believed that all workers would receive a 5% pay increase, not just those who did not have the 5% binding rate. The additional 5% was to be paid for flexibility following the introduction of revised work practices and would apply to everyone. Nowhere in the agreement is there any reference to absorption or elimination of any machine rate. The Union would not accept an agreement for the Binding department which was so different to the agreement in respect of the Folding department in so far as the retention of special rates is concerned. Clause 15 of the Agreement refers to the "additional 5% rate."
4. 1. All through discussions, the 5% was referred to as the perfect binding rate. In the agreement, Clause 6 states that "each employee will be paid the 5% binding rate on their basic pay". That is the situation which now exists, i.e., all workers in the Binding department receive the 5% rate. The Company never stated that those already in receipt of the 5% binding rate would receive an additional 5%. This was understood by the Union.
2. The Company's competitors do not pay the 4% forklift rate and for the Company to pay it would make it uncompetitive. The £1,500 lump sum was paid to ensure long term security.
The Court has considered the arguments of the parties contained in their written submissions and subsequent verbal clarification points made at the hearing.
The negotiations in 1995 centred on the Company's need to re-organise, following a downturn in sales, so that it was in a position to tender for alternative business. In that sense, the focus of the negotiations was, in part, to preserve jobs and future employment.
The burden of the re-organisation was felt in the Bindery and Despatch Departments. It is clear to the Court that SIPTU Printing Trades Branch and Irish Women Workers Branch would be directly involved in the re-organisation, and both would be required to give their consent to any new work arrangement.
Despite the pressures on management to effect the changes without cost, the Company offered to pay to all employees in the Bindery and Despatch Departments the 5% Perfect Binding Rate on their basic rate. Subsequent argument would support management's assertions that it was not the intention to make the payment across the board to all concerned.
The Court does not recommend concession of the Union's claim for pay of the 5% to those who had it in their basic rate prior to the negotiations. However, it recommends a further lump sum be paid to them. The parties should meet at the earliest opportunity to negotiate and agree on the appropriate value.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
22nd May, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.