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
(PRINTING TRADES' 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 PTB.
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
(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. There are nine workers involved in the claim, none of whom received the 5% binding rate. Six of the workers involved are drivers.
The Union claims that it raised the issue with the Company in early 1996. A number of meetings took place at local level and two conciliation conferences followed on the 23rd of April, 1996, and the 18th of July, 1997. As the parties did not reach agreement, 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. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 20th of April, 1998.
3. 1. There is no doubt that the nine workers should have received the 5% pay increase. The Company's argument that workers are in receipt of job differentials and thus not entitled to the 5% rate was never raised during negotiations on the agreement. The workers voted in favour of the agreement on the clear understanding that they would receive the 5%.
2. The Union has completed an agreement which covers two other areas of the plant (folding department/litho department) and on both occasions the workers concerned received the increases negotiated in addition to their job differential.
4. 1. The Company paid all of the workers involved the £1,500 lump sum. The 5% binding rate was paid to worker who were not in receipt of any additional payments. However, all the workers involved, most of whom are drivers, are in receipt of payments greater than 5% binding rate and, as such, were not entitled to a further 5% (drivers get approximately £30 per week). This approach is in line with the principle of absorption as practised in the print industry for many years.
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 of 5% across the board to all concerned but only to those in the IWWB who were in receipt of no percentage. The Court notes management did state that where claimants were in receipt of percentages less than 5% they will be brought up to the level.
The Court does not recommend concession of the Union's claim. 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.