INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
FRUIT OF THE LOOM INTERNATIONAL LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Appeal of Rights Commissioner's Recommendation No. IR260/98/JH concerning a dispute over working hours.
2. The Company manufactures printable activewear, outerwear, casualwear and sportswear. Currently it employs 1,400 people at three plants in Buncrana, Co. Donegal. A further 520 are employed at two adjacent plants in Derry, Northern Ireland.
The worker concerned commenced employment with the Company in 1981 as a knitter and in 1988 he was appointed to the position of knitting mechanic, operating on a 3-shift rota. In 1991 he trained in the installation and maintenance of scanners and computer boxes for a fabric fault detection system, following which he transferred to days (8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.).
In 1997, he was one of seven workers approached by management with a view to altering their hours of attendance. In relation to this worker the Company proposed a working day from 8.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Monday to Thursday and from 8.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. on Friday. The worker has operated these hours since the 14th of January, 1998. The matter was the subject of lengthy discussions but agreement was not reached and the dispute was referred to a Rights Commissioner for investigation and recommendation. The Rights Commissioner's Recommendation is as follows:
"Based on the evidence presented at the hearing, taking account of the conclusions above, I recommend that the worker be given the choice of a) continuing his present hours or b) working 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 3,30pm Friday (being the nearest to his previous hours). His choice should be advised to the Company within 14 days of the date of issue of this recommendation".
The worker was named in the recommendation.
The Rights Commissioner's Recommendation was appealed by both parties to the Labour Court under Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Labour Court heard the appeal in Donegal on the 16th of November, 1999.
3. 1. The worker has held the position of scanner since 1991, and no change in the content of his work has occurred since his hours of attendance were altered in January, 1998. The Company has acknowledged this.
2. The Company has consistently argued that the hours introduced in January, 1998 suits the operational requirements of the job. It is the Union's view that the introduction of these hours was an attempt by management to eliminate the 1.30 p.m. finish on Friday. Management has never disguised its dislike of the early finish on Friday.
3. There is no agreement for the introduction of new hours of attendance for day work. There are two agreements i.e., the plant agreement and an agreement reached on the 6th of February, 1998 which stipulate that there should be no change in the hours of work unless otherwise agreed.
4. The Union's position on the introduction of new hours is consistent with the plant agreement. It has always maintained that change should be negotiated. In the past it has acknowledged management's legitimate reasons for seeking to implement change.
5. There are no genuine operational reasons for changing the hours of attendance and it is crucial that agreements be honoured by both sides.
4. 1. When the proposed change of hours was put to the worker in December, 1997 he did not indicate that he had any problems with the proposal. It only became an issue when a colleague raised concern about the proposed hours.
2. The Rights Commissioner has acknowledged that "the Company can, as conceded by SIPTU, seek to change the production hours for legitimate reasons."
3. The arrangements sought and implemented by the Company are entirely consistent with the structures required by the Company in an effort to ensure the long term stability and competitiveness of its Fabric Plant. This has involved a full review of the Company's high frame/structured maintenance programme/planned maintenance appointments/project work and training instruction roles. The proposed hours as discussed and initially agreed by the worker are consistent with those required in operational terms by the Company given the particular characteristics of the Company's Fabric Plant operations in Shore Road, which are separate and distinct from those associated with the Company's operations elsewhere in Buncrana and this was emphasised throughout the discussions on this claim. The Company has repeatedly emphasised that the plant agreement is silent in relation to the Fabric Plant in Shore Road and that in any event the Company's proposals were properly
and fully discussed with the individual involved over a period of time and since that date the required hours had been accepted by all of the other workers involved or resolved through mutual agreement.
4. The worker's workload is made up of work on scanners and other work delegated to him associated with various projects carried out within the knitting department. The facts are that he was in an anomalous situation as the only person in the department trained on scanners and working a 'temporary' 8 - 4 shift for seven years.
5. He was also one of the named claimants in a separate loss of earnings claim associated with the termination of his 'temporary' shift and under the agreement reached was afforded a payment of £698.80. This was paid as compensation in respect of their change to day hours and the abnormal circumstances obtaining previously. That particular matter was resolved given the unique and special circumstances of the four workers involved and on the basis that the revised hours, resulting in a loss of earnings for those involved, were instigated by the Company.
6. The revision of the worker's hours was not unreasonable having regard to the nature of the Company's operations and given the nature of the initial discussions which took place and his acceptance of the proposed hours. It is now clear that he only developed a grievance amidst concern expressed by others concerning the Company's proposals. It is, however, ironic that it is the only grievance that has remained outstanding given the resolution of all other individuals difficulties in relation to same.
7. The Company is not in a position to alter the worker's hours. It is the Company's view that it is now time, given the substantial period that has elapsed since December, 1997, for the worker to move on and to accept the required hours associated with his continuing role in the Company.
The Court has considered the written and oral submissions presented by the parties. The Court is of the view that the requirement for the worker to work until 4.00 p.m. on Fridays is not an absolute necessity. Therefore, the Company should oblige him with his request to work 8.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and 8.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. on Fridays.
Accordingly, the Court upholds the Union's appeal of the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
14th December, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.